A Blog by the Editor of The Middle East Journal

Putting Middle Eastern Events in Cultural and Historical Context

Friday, December 27, 2013

Is Erdoğan's Invulnerability Unraveling?

Because of the holidays I haven't posted anything about the latest Turkish corruption crisis, which seems a fitting conclusion to a rough year overall for once-untouchable Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. From the demonstrations in Gezi Park through the open feud with his one-time allies in the Fethullah Gülen movement, to this latest corruption scandal resulting in dismissals and cabinet resignations, Erdoğan's seeming political invulnerability (and even the unity of his AKP Party) seem in jeopardy.

Erdoğan has been lashing out at the danger of a "foreign plot" aimed at Turkey (or his grandiose vision of Turkey), blaming his onetime allies in the Gülen Movement (who shared the AKP's emphasis on a greater role for Islam and helped him scale back the Army's power, but have now fallen out with him), and hinting that somehow Israel and the US are linked to Gülen (who lives in self-imposed exile in the US).

For the past decade, Erdoğan has enjoyed a sort of political invulnerability at home and an international reputation for increasing democratic freedoms in Turkey; the latter has been unraveling since Gezi Park, and now even the former could be threatened; there is growing pressure on the media and opposition and Erdoğan's control of his own party seems less certain than before; the liras and stock market are suffering and there is even murmuring about new elections, despite the AKP's overwhelming dominance in the Grand National Assembly.

It may not be the end of the Erdoğan era, but he does seem to be challenged as never before.

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