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Monday 8 November 2021

All the President’s Men: Institutions and key players in Erdogan’s Turkey

This SEESOX seminar was held on 3 November in the European Studies Centre of St Antony’s College, Oxford. The speaker was Selim Koru (Economic Policy Research Foundation of Turkey), the discussant was Sinem Adar (German Institute for International and Security Affairs), and Dimitar Bechev (Oxford School of Global and Area Studies) chaired.

Bechev opened proceedings by noting that the Erdogan system was currently in trouble. It had run out of ideas and was failing on economic policy. The Opposition had learnt lessons in local elections and was now preparing for 2023 elections. Erdogan was no longer an unstoppable power.

Koru said that Erdogan rule was approaching its natural end. What had happened in the past 20 years, and where would Turkey go? Turkey after the AKP rise to power in 2002 had become an early version of a global tendency towards populism. It combined the far right rhetoric of civilisational change with sharp changes in economic/capital structures, bringing together an alliance of islamists and nationalists, and claiming to restore social harmony, economic success, and military glory. Today, although there was economic growth, there was inflation of 40-50%, and a catastrophic fall in the value of the lira. In the cities, there was a mix of two worlds: restaurants were full, but bus users worried about affording the fare. Istanbul especially was feeling acute economic pain. The Erdogan rating level was down to 40%, and going to get worse. Polls suggested that the governing coalition and opposition coalition had 40% each, 10% Kurdish, and 10% smaller opposition parties. It would be dangerous for Erdogan to hold elections, and unlikely that he would: though he presented himself as embodying the nation (“divinely ordained sovereignty”).