Does Erdogan care about the divisions in Turkey’s society?

It seems that Turkey is very divided after the referendum. Do you think that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will do something to heal this rift, and does he care? Read few comments.

Turkey’s President President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Credit: https://www.tccb.gov.tr

David Romano, Professor, Department of Political Science, Missouri State University

Turkey is indeed more divided than ever after the referendum. The reports of voting irregularities, from monitors being refused access to several polling centers to the election board changing the rules (regarding ballots lacking an official stamp — these will now be accepted unless proven fraudulent, rather than refused unless proven legitimate) in the middle of the polling, make it look like the vote was rigged. This, combined with the very unbalanced and unfair media treatment of the ‘no’ side during the campaign, sap the legitimacy of the democratic process in Turkey, or what is left of that process. People who see their government as lacking all legitimacy and without a mandate from the people to rule, are more likely to oppose it in a variety of ways — some of them likely violent.

Erdogan also seems unlikely to do anything necessary to heal this rift. His instinct appears to be to repress. He has been very good at using “salami tactics” to repress his enemies one layer at a time, but eventually all these enemies that have been repressed become both irreconcilable and too numerous. I fear dark days ahead for Turkey.

Selim SazakPh.D. Student, Brown University

I don’t think Erdogan is interested in healing this divide. He constructed this divide over his many years, and is thriving thanks to it. Turkey’s present troubles are the last link in a complex chain of events. At their root, however, lies a long-concealed trifecta of irreconcilable nationalisms pulling Turkey apart at its ethnic, sectarian, and ideological seams.
This is the secret for his success: Erdogan is a political Ponzi-schemer.

First, he allied with the followers of Islamist cleric Fethullah Gulen to purge the seculars; then, he allied with seculars to purge the Gulenists that he was now accusing of a conspiracy to gain control over the state. He first promised the Kurds peace, and then tanks rolled into their streets. He was cruising in the Turkish Riviera on a double-date with the Assads before he wanted Washington to rain cruise missiles on them. Vladimir Putin was Erdogan’s best buddy before he became his worst enemy. One day, he apologized for the Armenian genocide; another day, he attacked the Armenians with racial slurs. He spent years assailing Israel from behind every pulpit he could find, only to make amends with them one morning and to start pretending that nothing ever happened.

When the seculars stood in his way, Erdogan rallied with the Kurds. When the Kurds put a spoke in his wheel, he rallied with the seculars. When they united against him, as happened in the Gezi Park protests, he accused them of a phantasmagoria of international conspiracies that would put conspiracy-theorist Internet forums to shame.

Erdogan did what politicians do, flawlessly executing the spin cycle to the point of a fault. By shifting from side to side, ever the opportunist, Erdogan crumbled to pieces the little desire Turkey‘s many identities (seculars, Islamists, Turks, Kurds, Alevis, Sunnis, etc) had for a shared future.

Burak Kadercan*, Assistant Professor of Strategy and Policy, Naval War College

Turkey’s post-referendum division is not new, in fact it is the ultimate manifestation of the division of the past decade. Erdogan’s long term strategy builds on “unipolarizing” Turkey, since he is supported by the largest chunk of voters (opposition is very divided). I don’t think Erdogan will try to heal this divide. In fact, at this stage he simply cannot (the rift is chronic and very big)

* These views do not reflect those of the Naval War College, the Department of the Navy, the Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

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