We are captives of the present. Up until the May elections, most observers of Turkish politics focused (correctly) on Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s plans regarding foreign policy. Questions about domestic policy concentrated mainly on whether Erdoğan would return to economic orthodoxy and what strategy he might deploy to win back municipal governments in local elections next year. What is beginning to emerge, however, is Erdoğan’s desire to engage in social engineering so that his constituents’ world and societal views mirror his own. This desire has strong undertones of fascism that will close off Turkey’s population off to values and norms associated with the West.
Erdoğan has struggled to top the 50 percent threshold necessary to hold power in his last three presidential elections. This has vexed him, as it’s become abundantly clear that half the country doesn’t want him to remain president. To win successive elections in 2014, 2018 and 2023, Erdoğan has relied on an increasing degree of authoritarian antics to ensure that he retains power. The biggest components of this strategy include state and media capture. In the case of the former, the judiciary, law enforcement, and rule by executive fiat have ensured a state apparatus that has become one with Erdoğan. The president decrees; the state implements. In the case of the latter, it is no secret that Erdoğan has overseen the construction of a media environment that is overwhelmingly loyal and compliant to make his image shine.