TURKEY: THE BACKSTAGE TROUBLES OF A ONE-MAN SHOW

TURKEY: THE BACKSTAGE TROUBLES OF A ONE-MAN SHOW

​No one can dispute that Turkish politics is increasingly a one-man show. After winning a first-round presidential ballot outright on Sunday, Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who has already purged thousands of officials, warped the courts, and muzzled the media — jumped through what looked like the last hoop in his multi-year push to bring the country’s political system more firmly under his control. He will begin a fresh five-year term with vastly-expanded new presidential powers.


But Mr. Erdogan isn’t yet the modern Sultan that he seemingly aspires (and his critics sometimes make him out) to be. His election victory — in which he managed to secure just 52.4 percent despite almost complete control over domestic media — was by no means resounding. Turkish society remains deeply divided, and despite growing constraints, real political parties that oppose him continue to thrive, at least for now.

What’s more, his AKP party suffered a decline in support and failed to win outright control over parliament, meaning it will rely on a partner for a legislative majority. That partner is the ultranationalist MHP party, which joined forces with the AKP in the election. Erdogan will need MHP votes to pass legislation or to stave off parliamentary challenges to his decrees. Erdogan will also need the MHP’s help to win some difficult municipal elections next year.

The MHP could prove to be a thorny partner: its demands for harsher policy towards the Kurds will inflame tensions at home and risk fresh tensions with NATO allies who support Kurdish enclaves across the border. The MHP also wants to loosen the budgetary purse strings, precisely when foreign creditors are already punishing Turkey for pumping too much money into the economy.

To be clear, Erdogan has done much to bend the Turkish political system to his will over the past fifteen years. The country is already one of the world’s biggest democratic “backsliders.” And yet there are still parts of that system that remain resistant to his brand of authoritarianism.

Whether Erdogan will use his new powers to break those last ramparts of resistance — and whether that effort decisively levels his opponents or ends up destabilizing his country more broadly — will be the critical story as Turkey lurches into a new and deeply uncertain phase of its history.

This time last year, world health experts were speculating about why Africa appeared to have escaped the worst of the global pandemic. Younger populations? Natural immunity created by exposure to past viruses? Something else?

They can stop wondering. Africa is now in the grip of a COVID emergency.

More Show less

Listen: Stanford historian Niall Ferguson joins Ian Bremmer on the GZERO World podcast to talk about the geopolitics of disaster. Throughout human history we seem to be unable to adequately prepare for catastrophes (natural or human-caused) before they strike. Why is that? And as we emerge from the greatest calamity of our lifetimes in the COVID-19 pandemic and look to the plethora of crises that climate change has and will cause, what can we do to lessen the blow?

Subscribe to the GZERO World Podcast on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher, or your preferred podcast platform to receive new episodes as soon as they're published.

Get insights on the latest news in US politics from Jon Lieber, head of Eurasia Group's coverage of political and policy developments in Washington:

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi barred two Republican members from serving on the Jan. 6 commission. What's going on?

Well, the Jan. 6 commission was designed to be a bipartisan commission, taking input from members from Democrats and Republicans. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had the opportunity to make recommendations but the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, could always veto those recommendations. In this case, she did, saying no to two members, Jim Banks and Jim Jordan, both of whom are strongly aligned with President Trump and who voted against certifying the election results in 2020. The Republicans for the most part see the Jan. 6 commission as an opportunity to score political points against them, and the Democrats say this is going to be a fair, non-biased, and nonpartisan investigation into what happened on Jan. 6, starting with a hearing next week with some of the police officers who were involved in the battle with the protesters inside the Capitol.

More Show less

In his New York Times op-ed, David Brooks says the US is facing an identity crisis — protecting liberal and progressive values at home while doing little to stop autocrats elsewhere. But has the US really abandoned its values abroad just because it's withdrawing from Afghanistan? Ian Bremmer and Eurasia Group analyst Charles Dunst take out the Red Pen to argue that the US can advance democracy without being the world's sheriff.

More Show less

When the Tokyo Olympics begin on Friday, Japan watchers will be following more than just the performance of Japan's star athletes, including tennis star Naomi Osaka. They will also be tracking the political fortunes of Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga, who is taking a big gamble by staging the event — amid a raging pandemic — in the face of strong and longstanding opposition from the Japanese public. What are the stakes for Suga, particularly with elections on the horizon? Eurasia Group senior analyst Ali Wyne explains.

More Show less

YouTube pulls Bolsonaro's rants: Google-owned YouTube pulled down a series of videos on the channel of Brazil's populist President Jair Bolsonaro, accusing him of spreading misinformation about the pandemic. YouTube removed more than a dozen clips for touting quack cures for coronavirus or claiming, in defiance of scientific experts, that masks don't reduce COVID transmissions. Last year, Twitter and Facebook also removed some content from Bolsonaro's feeds for similar reasons. But critics say that YouTube's move is too little too late, because Bolsonaro has been spreading misinformation about COVID since the pandemic began. Many Brazilians hold him personally responsible for the country's abysmal pandemic response, which has led to almost 550,000 deaths, the second worst toll in the world. Will YouTube's move change Bolsonaro's message? His weekly address to the nation, where he converses not only with government ministers but also various conspiracy theorists and loons, is broadcast on YouTube. Surely he doesn't want to risk losing that — or does he?

More Show less

Boycotts! Bans! Protests! Drugs! Think you've got gold medal knowledge about politics at the Olympics? Test what you know with this special Tokyo Olympics Quiz. And to stay current on all the latest political stories at the Games and around the world, subscribe here to Signal, our daily newsletter. Now, without further ado, the first question is...

More Show less

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter, Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal

GZERO World with Ian Bremmer. Watch episodes now

GZEROMEDIA

Subscribe to GZERO Media's newsletter: Signal