In This Review

The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey
The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey
By Soner Cagaptay
224 pp, I.B. Tauris, 2017

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey’s leader since 2003, has had an impact on the republic arguably equal to that of its transformational founder, Kemal Ataturk. Turkey’s economy has boomed under Erdogan; its middle class has tripled in size during his rule and now includes around 40 percent of the population. But Cagaptay sees Erdogan as a deeply flawed figure who threatens Turkey’s democracy. After the economic troubles of the 1990s, Erdogan, whose politics are shaped by an uneasy mix of Islamism and constitutional secularism, consolidated a center-right coalition of pro-market and Islamist supporters that has never quite exceeded 50 percent of the electorate. After the 2007 election, in which his Justice and Development Party, known as the AKP, came close to receiving a majority, Erdogan began to eliminate all checks on his power: the military, the press, and the judiciary were all suborned. At first, Erdogan was aided by Fethullah Gulen, an influential cleric with many followers in the security establishment. But in 2013, Erdogan broke with the Gulenists. In 2016, a failed coup allegedly organized by Gulenists gave Erdogan a pretext to purge the government, academia, and the media of not only Gulenists but also liberals and Kurds. Only an economic downturn could now loosen his grip on power.