As corruption allegations swirl and his administration’s ham-fisted attempts to squash them resonate across national and international media, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s regime in Turkey is starting to resemble the one left behind by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela last year. Not because he indulges in left-wing politics, celebrates the Bolivar movement, or chases away local industrialists, but rather because the premier has resorted to lambasting every seemingly damning piece of evidence against him as a conspiracy wrought by nefarious internal elements betraying the national interest. Consider: a tape of what sounds like Erdogan and his son Bilal discussing how to hide vast sums of money as the corruption probe first broke is “an attack on the Turkish Republic.” And the prime minister hasn’t stopped at rhetoric, either, single-handedly ordering a shakeup of the judiciary, purging thousands of police officers and prosecutors from the national landscape, and laying down a marker that those who challenge him or the AKP can expect the full force of state power at their doorstep.
VISUAL CONTEXT: Turkey’s economic growth has been trending downward as the premier’s political woes have gotten worse.
This might seem a curious strategy for a seasoned nationalist who aspires to the presidency (one he hopes to further empower before winning it) as well as membership in the European Union (and with it, plenty of economic benefits). But Erdogan seems to believe the corruption allegation and the protests they’ve sparked are existential threats that cannot be permitted to play out. He’s in a bit of a bind now where everything he does to quell the political insurrection — which has taken the form of protesters raging in the streets — damages his credibility in the West, concerned as E.U. and American political leaders are with judicial independence and freedom of protest. These concerns, it is important to note, are very much in the spotlight given the Yanukovych ouster in Ukraine and the escalating political crisis in Venezuela.
The key question here: Is there a point when the presidency will be worthless to Erdogan, his image having become so tattered that he can barely eke out a valid electoral win on the back of his support in rural territories, his nation’s hopes of hopping on the E.U. bandwagon dashed? We say yes, though he has some distance to go before reaching that point. In the meantime, the premier is content to use every avenue available, including the constant insinuation that to question his conduct is to commit treason, to stay in power.