We are less than one month out after Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s victory in a snap election he called, in order to “end uncertainty,” amidst economic troubles and political restlessness. After more than two years of anti-democratic repression of freedom of expression in media, in education, and in government, Erdoğan’s slim electoral majority is far from impressive. In the wake of the election, “illiberal” though it may be judged, Erdoğan will command unprecedented executive power on the familiar model of the charismatic leader. In the parliament, Erdoğan’s authoritarian, development-first, Islamist brand of politics under the mantle of the AK Party is bolstered by his alliance with the far-right, nationalist MHP and his affinity with the mass politics of nationalist gangs.
Commentators have been preoccupied by making sense of potential continuities and discontinuities in the wake of the election, for example, of whether Erdoğan will interpret his slim victory as a sufficient mandate to deepen his authoritarian repression of dissent (e.g., the detention of peaceful anti-war protestors as “terrorists”) or to continue rejecting traditional allies in international policy.
This week sees the long-anticipated end of a “state of emergency” that was declared in, and has been consistently extended since the attempted coup in July 2016. The end of emergency rule on July 19 is, however, complemented by proposed legislation that would criminalize dissent without the promise of a democratic horizon after an ill-defined normalcy has been achieved (here’s a story on Al-Monitor and another through The Times). Regardless of how Erdoğan and his allies decide, it is clear that Erdoğan’s paranoid style is shaping how Turks relate to one another in everyday and institutional life. Commentators on this and other such right-wing populist, ethno-nationalist, and authoritarian politicians and platforms must therefore not limit themselves to formal electoral politics or the actions of individuals who speak in the name of or explicitly identify with the state.