Erdogan’s gamble pays off

A different President Erdogan is in charge now, notes Matthew Partridge. One that believes in 'majoritarian' rule.


Erdogan won a "thumping victory" for his party

In calling a second election, the Turkish prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, "gambled on confrontation", with many predicting that the result would be another hung parliament.But "against all forecasts", says David Gardner in the Financial Times, this gamble seems to have paid off. Erdogan won "a thumping victory for his neo-Islamist Justice and Development party (AKP) in Sunday's rerun of June's general election".

Of course, says The New York Times, the AKP "did not gain enough seats in parliament to enable Erdogan to change the Constitution to create the strong executive presidency he has sought". However, his victory means that his "increasingly authoritarian domination of the Turkish government" will continue. "There are fears that the pro-Kurdish coalition" and others who campaigned against him will become targets of reprisals. One "chilling" piece of evidence that he may be planning such an attack: "the day after the election Turkish police officers raided a weekly magazine charged with insulting the Turkish president'".

It would be nice to think that Erdogan's victory might "rekindle some of the spirit which earned him the plaudits of the West a decade ago", says The Times. Back then, "he expanded personal freedoms" and "removed the claws of the military, which had interfered regularly with Turkish politics". But while "there is still time for a change of course", the reality is that "a different Erdogan is in charge" now "one who believes in majoritarian rather than pluralist rule".

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Many hoped that the Arab Spring would "turn those states toward the seemingly successful Turkish model", saysJoe Parkinson in The Wall Street Journal. Instead, "Turkey seems to be falling into Syria's vortex of sectarianism and proxy war". Already, "long-standing social rifts have been widened by the government's response to perceived threats", with any form of protest or dissent "branded as foreign plots and met with police crackdowns". Already, many Turks whohave returned home "areagain considering an exit".

This all carries negative implications for the wider Middle East. The Daily Telegraph's Mark Almond notes that Erdogan's "preference for the Muslim fundamentalist Syrian opposition puts him at odds with the West's declared strategic goal". The Turkish leader "has consistently tried to undercut the West's new allies from gaining ground in northern Syria", while letting "the jihadists operating in Syria and Iraq use southern Turkey as a safe haven". It looks as though Turkey's "allies and neighbours are set for a rocky ride".

Even so, "the EU Commission had only good things to say about the triumph" of Erdogan, says The Guardian's Ian Traynor. That's because "Turkey is the pivotal country between Europe and Syria and is the main source of the hundreds of thousands of people trekking up the Balkans to the gates of the EU". As a result, "Brussels and Berlin are desperate to get Erdogan onside to stem the flow". Since "he is now calling all the shots", the EU will have to pay "handsomely to have Turkey serve as Europe's border, prison guards and policemen".

Dr Matthew Partridge

Matthew graduated from the University of Durham in 2004; he then gained an MSc, followed by a PhD at the London School of Economics.

He has previously written for a wide range of publications, including the Guardian and the Economist, and also helped to run a newsletter on terrorism. He has spent time at Lehman Brothers, Citigroup and the consultancy Lombard Street Research.

Matthew is the author of Superinvestors: Lessons from the greatest investors in history, published by Harriman House, which has been translated into several languages. His second book, Investing Explained: The Accessible Guide to Building an Investment Portfolio, is published by Kogan Page.

As senior writer, he writes the shares and politics & economics pages, as well as weekly Blowing It and Great Frauds in History columns He also writes a fortnightly reviews page and trading tips, as well as regular cover stories and multi-page investment focus features.

Follow Matthew on Twitter: @DrMatthewPartri