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Erdogan’s Way

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Erdogan’s Way

The Rise and Rule of Turkey’s Islamist Shapeshifter

Foreign Affairs,

5 min read
4 take-aways
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan personifies the new global trend toward illiberalism. 

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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is a polarizing figure in a multifaceted country that has been straddling East and West throughout its history. Once held up as a paragon for the compatibility of Islam and democracy, Turkey has recently earned itself the less flattering reputation as the world’s biggest prison for journalists. Kaya Genc untangles the many internal contradictions within Turkish domestic politics through the lens of Erdogan’s rise to power. Although Erdogan’s rise occurred within a uniquely Turkish context, he has also become a standard-bearer of the new global trend toward illiberalism.


Since his election to the Turkish presidency in 2013, Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been tightening his grip on the country.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan became prime minister of Turkey in 2003. In 2014, almost half of all Turkish voters cast their vote in his favor to become president. In 2018, Erdogan convinced voters not only to re-elect him, but to make him Turkey’s sole executive authority by abolishing the post of prime minister. Erdogan took full advantage of this strong popular mandate to tighten his grip on the country and crack down on dissenters and the free press. Today, no country in the world has more journalists in jail than Turkey.

Although Erdogan has been strongly influenced by Islamism, he has pragmatically refashioned himself as a “conservative democrat.”

Born in 1954, Erdogan grew up in a rough Istanbul neighborhood and attended a religious school. He became a follower of Turkey...

About the Author

Kaya Genc is the author of Under the Shadow: Rage and Revolution in Modern Turkey.

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