Erdogan Has Perfected the Autocrat’s Playbook

Erdogan Has Perfected the Autocrat’s Playbook
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cheer at AKP party headquarters, in Ankara, Turkey, May 15, 2023 (AP photo by Ali Unal).

The results of Sunday’s elections in Turkey came as a disappointment not only to Turkish voters who wanted to bring an end to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20 years of increasingly autocratic rule. The opposition’s weaker-than-expected performance also dashed the hopes of many outside observers that Turkey would become one of the countries where the global drift to autocracy begins to reverse.

The Turkish vote was important not only because the country is a major regional power, but because Erdogan has become a model for aspiring autocrats seeking a path to amassing power under the emerging model of illiberal democracy.

Of course, the ultimate outcome of the presidential election is not yet settled, and there’s still a faint chance that the opposition could manage a victory. Since neither Erdogan nor his challenger, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, secured the required 50 percent of the vote, the contest goes to a second round on May 28. But the odds strongly favor Erdogan.

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