Originally this post was supposed to be about a new affair between Turkey and Russia. Nevertheless it’s impossible to write anything sensible without having closer look at the main player in this game – Turkish president.
Long story short. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan was born on 26 February 1954 in a vigilant Muslim family. He attended and graduated from religious vocational Imam Hatip High Shool in Istanbul – an institution aimed at raising “good Muslims”. It was also the place where he became involved with National Student Association and started his early political career. Furthermore he finished Eyüp High School and did Business Administration course at Marmara University, but it was Imam Hatip School where political views of the future president were shaped. While studying Erdoğan became more and more politically active and grew into prominent member of National Salvation Party and after 1980 military coup of its successor Islamist Welfare Party (which was eventually banned from politics for violating the separation of religion and state in 1998). His commitment brought him victory in Istanbul Mayoral Election in 1994. Running the office was another success of Erdoğan. His diploma in economic studies helped him to tackle with the then numerous problems of the city.
Yet in 1998 as mentioned above his party was banned from politics. Erdoğan himself ended up in prison and was forced to resign from his mayoral position. His “crime” was citing a poem by Ziya Gökalp, which contained verses: “The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers…”. Court regarded it as an incitement to violence and religious hatred. As a consequence Erdoğan was sentenced to ten months of imprisonment. He eventually served four and after his release “changed” his political views and principles. He changed his tactic. It was breakthrough in his life and political career. In 1999 when it happened Erdogan was 45 years old. What makes me wonder is the fact that this is not the age when anybody suddenly changes their mind and switches sites, especially after committing the kind of offence he did. Neither is prison the place to do so. Four months in the cell is not too long, but it was certainly enough for him to understand which path to follow to realize his true idea of Turkey.
In 2001 he established Justice and Development Party (AKP) and after recouping his right to run for public offices he become Turkish Prime Minister. During 11 years (2003-2014) of being PM Erdoğan did huge amount of work to achieve his goal. He brought Turkey closer to EU, started solving Kurdish issue, but most importantly he made ordinary people happy. He efficiently took care of the matters every single citizen is concerned about the most: economy, health care, education and even labor rights and infrastructure. No wonder he grew strong and popular despite numerous controversies. Well-off society turned the blind eye on violation of human rights, freedom of speech, minority rights or interfering with appointing of new judges to the high courts. Even 2013 Gezi Park protests against the then policies where 11 people were killed and more than 8000 were injured, many critically didn’t threaten his strong position.
In 2014 after his 3rd term as PM and when he could no longer run for the office Erdoğan was elected President of Turkey – supposedly representative role. But even from the very beginning he didn’t hide the fact that he wanted to change it, neither he obeyed the rule of being neutral from partisan politics and openly still supports AKP. Ever since he became President his leanings towards silencing the media, cracking down the dissidents or intimidating of the Constitutional Court have only increased. Moreover on 5th of May 2015 the then Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu announced his resignation after sharp deterioration in relations between two politicians. It seemed that Prime Minister was no longer conveniente enough for the President. And finally the latest events – failed coup. Whoever was behind it, it turned out that Erdoğan is the most beneficial from 15th of July Friday night. In the aftermath he got excellent opportunity to get rid of all of his enemies and opponents, both real and imagined ones. His purges effected more that 100 thousand people, including civil servants, journalists, writers, soldiers, lawyers, judges, teachers. Lot’s of which were detained for questioning or arrested, while the others “only” sacked from their positions. Even private businesses owners were targeted, probably because of their alleged support for the plotters. But Erdoğan is a winner not only because of this reason. He also confirmed himself and proved his foes and the rest of the world his enormous popularity. After Presidents’ appeal hundred thousands of Turks took to the streets to express their support and to stop the coup. And now after all what happened Erdoğan is making unpredictable movements. Firstly, looking for alliances outside NATO (visit to Russia after coup attempt) making friendship with previous rivals (closer relations with Israel) and finally coming back to old establishment (cooperation with US on war in Syria).
Time will show what his next step will be. The stake is high. Definitely he has a lot to win, but he has even more to loose. Will he play his cards wisely and effectively like he did so far? His critics accuse him of having aspiration to become new-era Ottoman sultan. And they are right. His the only desire is to gain more and more power. No doubt, Erdoğan is cleaver, ambitious and above all patient. There is possibility that he might get what he craves.