The Paranoid Style in Turkish Politics
Turkish PM: Pope Has Joined Conspiracy Against Us

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu sees enemies everywhere he looks. Hurriyet relayed some delightfully paranoid remarks of Davutoğlu’s as he sought to rally the ruling AKP party ahead of elections:

“Currently, an evil front is being formed against us,” Davutoğlu said in the Ankara meeting where his party’s election manifesto was announced and candidates running in the June 7 election were presented on April 15. “Now the pope has joined this conspiracy.”

The PM went on to accuse opposition parties of being “foreign projects” set up to undermine the AKP.

The remark about Pope Francis was inspired by the Pontiff’s recent condemnation of the Armenian genocide, but Davutoğlu’s hostility to the Pope and opposition parties are all of a piece. As Jenny White argued in a piece for TAI, when ruling parties start to blame “traitors” for any unrest or problems the society faces, it’s simply par for the course in Turkish politics.

Turkey operates on a “bigman” system of political power, White explains, in which a charismatic leader climbs to power by forming a powerful network of supporters. Once in power, however, the bigman treats other networks as enemies:

Those standing against the national will are demonized as anti-democratic traitors (hain), and the worst traitors are those who had been nearest the national bosom. During the Kemalist era, Turkey’s non-Muslim minorities were accused of being “inside enemies” undermining Turkey at the behest of foreign powers. Now the inside enemy is Hizmet, which Erdoğan has accused of creating a “parallel state.” […]

A bigman must possess certain qualities to develop the powerful networks that propel his group to great heights. The danger is that, once successful, he seeks to assert dominance, thereby undercutting the solidarity of his supporters and leading to increasingly desperate attempts to blame fractures on enemies, usually by spinning elaborate conspiracy theories.

Davutoğlu’s words are just the latest example of that dynamic at work. If you really want to understand Turkey better, White’s piece is a must-read.

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