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A Prime Minister Plans for the Presidency
CLAIR SADAR is an independent blogger and analyst of Turkish politics. She blogs at Atatürk’s Republic. Follow her on Twitter @karepublic. BRENT E. SASLEY is Associate Professor of Political Science at the University of Texas at Arlington. Follow him on Twitter @besasley.See more by Brent E. SasleySee more by Claire Sadar
Now that Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become the country's first popularly elected president, analysts are speculating about his next moves. Although Turkey’s president is formally only the head of state, the position will provide a platform from which Erdogan can influence policies and appointments. Moreover, he has said on multiple occasions that he will expand the powers of the office to their constitutionally mandated limit -- and then some.
Given his imperious attitude, Erdogan is often compared to Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. Although he occasionally consulted with advisers, Ataturk imposed sweeping changes through sheer force of will. Erdogan is just as determined. But he also has something Ataturk did not: the near-complete loyalty of the Justice and Development Party (AKP), which provides a ready mechanism for setting policy.
Although he is mentioned less often, another Turkish political figure offers an even better point of comparison: Turgut Ozal, who served as prime minister in 1983–89 and as president in 1989–93. Both Erdogan and Ozal entered politics though nontraditional routes: Ozal was an economist before being tapped to work for Turkey’s post-1980 junta. Erdogan famously came from an impoverished background and was a talented amateur soccer player before becoming active in the Islamist Welfare Party. Both men went on to break with their political patrons and form their own center-right political groups -- Ozal the Motherland Party and Erdogan the AKP. Both saw their parties come to dominate Turkish politics and went on to serve as prime minister and then president.