Recep Tayyip Erdogan: Turkey's new Ataturk?
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his AKP party have made Turkey wealthier and more powerful on the world stage. But some Turks are concerned about a loss of civil liberties.
Istanbul and Hatay, Turkey
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the charismatic man who has led Turkey for the past nine years, won a third term with overwhelming support in yesterday's parliamentary elections. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) captured 50 percent of the vote – nearly double that of its closest rival, giving it a resounding popular mandate.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
The AKP had spared no expense to increase the political stature of their leader, despite charges of growing authoritarianism from a newly emboldened opposition. Mr. Erdogan had hoped to get at least 330 seats in the 550-seat parliament, which would have allowed the Islamic-rooted party to rewrite the Constitution – the one penned after a 1980 military coup – without the cooperation of the opposition.
But Mr. Erdogan fell slightly short of that goal. The AKP reportedly got 326 seats, leading Erdogan to pledge humility and a willingness to serve all Turks, whether they voted for him or not.
Still, few will forget the outsized imagery that has come to characterize AKP rule after nine years at the helm.
At Erdogan's last big rally in Istanbul, he took to an outdoor stage with towering 20-foot-high portraits of himself on either side. All around the vast venue, dozens of large banners of Erdogan hung from wires, compared to just one banner of the revered father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.
All that was fitting tribute in the eyes of AKP voter Mujahed Oynan. "I can't like [Erdogan] more; I can't think of another leader," the food engineer said between bursts of ear-splitting rhetoric from the stage.
On the back of widespread popularity, the AKP has transformed the political and economic landscape of Turkey. It has bolstered the economy in impressive fashion: the average economic output per capita has tripled since the party took power in 2002. It has also championed reforms in the name of democracy – and for its bid to join the European Union. A robust foreign policy has seen Turkey increase its stature on a host of regional issues.
But along the way, freedom of speech and other liberties have suffered, and critics wonder how far Erdogan and the AKP will reach during a third term.