ISTANBUL—Turkey’s elected government survived last weekend’s failed coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, but there’s no reason to think that Turkey’s democracy will be strengthened by the outcome. Erdogan is responding to the threat by rounding up all his enemies, real and imagined, and pushing for new powers that will set back Turkey’s reputation, its economy and its capacity to be a constructive leader in the region. Erdogan has won, but Turkey has lost.
For some time, tensions in Turkey have been rising over Erdogan’s ambitious plans to expand the powers of the presidency. As I discussed in last week’s column, his incremental and insistent moves to eliminate opposition and expand his authorities have begun to raise serious concerns. Could Turkey be the exception to the rule that says that countries with strong middle classes don’t revert to dictatorships?
It’s certainly true that Turkey has faced the kinds of challenges that compel leaders to strengthen their grip. It has weathered multiple terrorist attacks recently against major public and tourist-sector locales. It is back at war with the Kurdish insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK). It has to cope with millions of Syrian refugees, even as it works with Europe to prevent the further flow of migrants to the West.