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Turkish police officers arrest demonstrators trying to march to Taksim Square, Istanbul, May 1, 2018 (AP photo by Lefteris Pitarakis).

Has Erdogan’s Attempt to Reshape Turkish Society Hit a Wall?

Friday, June 8, 2018

A new mosque in traditional Ottoman style is currently being built in Istanbul’s central Taksim Square. Due to be completed later this year, it is just one of thousands of new mosques going up across Turkey. But the construction in Taksim is particularly symbolic—an apparent sign of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s conquest of the political landscape and ability to reshape the Turkish nation in line with his wishes. He is currently campaigning for snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 in which he could further cement his grip.

Despite a surprisingly energetic opposition campaign, Erdogan remains the odds-on favorite. But under the surface, things may not be so simple. Turkish society today is too sophisticated to be entirely reshaped by one man. While Erdogan and his party’s religious-nationalist program, combining modern Islamic conservatism with a populist streak heavy on Ottoman nostalgia, appears firmly in place today, there are growing signs that social tides in Turkey are not necessarily moving in the conservative direction that many assume. ...

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