Thursday, March 15, 2012

A Dictator in Turkey?

Just a few years ago, it was assumed that it was not a matter of if Turkey would join the European Union, but when. With the EU now going through its most challenging period since its inception, the idea of merging Turkey, a country of 70 million Muslims, into a common market economy with old, Christian Europe is now dead. The Turks, who have battled for the last twenty years to meet stringent requirements for entry to the Union, have taken the news in stride. Their indifference probably has something to do with Turkey’s booming economy. Its GDP growth has outstripped that of Europe for years now. Now averaging 8% growth per year, total output has doubled over the last decade. Turkey has achieved this growth by instituting a basic restructuring of its economy: selling off state owned industries, encouraging completion in important areas like insurance and telecommunications, and promoting exports. Most of the credit for the economic miracle has gone to the country’s Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. But economic growth isn’t everything. Elected in 2002, Erdoğan has been praised by Western leaders as someone who can bridge the divide between west and east. But as Dexter Filkins makes clear in an extensive piece in this week’s edition of the New Yorker, Erdoğan has been showing signs of authoritarianism lately. In the last couple of years, hundreds of journalists, generals, MEPs, and secularists have been put on trial or thrown in jail for no other reason than disagreeing with Erdoğan’s policies. He has also clamped down on the rights of Kurds (who make up 20% of the population). Since 2009, up to 4,000 Kurds have been arrested. Under his auspices, a constitutional amendment process has been initiated that will allow most of the powers of the prime minister’s office to transfer to the presidency. And there is little doubt Erdoğan will run for that office in 2014. Like Putin, Erdoğan plans to be around for a while yet.
- Read more about it here: The New Yorker