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Erdogan will likely win this weekend's presidential election. But the foundations of his power are unstable. His policies will eventually put him at odds with some of his most important backers: Istanbul-based big business and the religiously conservative business community in Turkey’s heartland, Anatolia. Indeed, they already have.
Turkey might seem like a confident rising power, but its leaders fear being abandoned by the West as much as ever. As it has in the past, the United States can push Turkey toward political reform by reminding Ankara that it has to live up to Western democratic standards if it wants to continue to enjoy the benefits of being counted as an ally.
Last week, Erdogan banned Twitter to try to prevent the spread of recordings of incriminating conversations between him and members of his family and inner circle. By exposing the prime minister’s abuses of power, the dirty dealings of the Gülenists (Erdogan's foes and likely purveyors of the recordings), and the weakness of the opposition, the scandal raises doubts about the future of Turkish democracy.
In power for over a decade, Turkey's Islamists are proving to be their own worst enemy. The alliance of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s AKP and the movement of Fethullah Gülen, a Muslim cleric who leads his congregation from self-imposed exile in the United States, is imploding. As it does, the public is losing faith in both and the military is gearing up to insert itself into politics once more.
Those who assert that the protests in Turkey will not bring the liberals to power are right. But that does not mean that the demonstrations have not seriously hurt Erdogan. His handling of the crisis has significantly strengthened the position of his rival, Abdullah Gul.