Power consolidation in Turkey : Erdogan’s end goal

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2018-04-30

Authors

Boyles, Casey Leigh

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Abstract

Since the AKP came to power under the leadership of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, historical paradigms of power have shifted in Turkey. Whereas power was previously effectively dispersed into several institutions that competed in a system with checks and balances, the current Turkish political system no longer contains traditional restraints on executive power. The former parliamentary system has been transformed under the tutelage of the AKP and the 2017 constitutional referendum into an executive-style presidential system which eroded key competing institutions for power. Institutions such as the parliamentary system, the judiciary, and the military previously constrained executive power, but today their capacities to offer checks to the executive have eroded to the point of being ineffective. Under President Erdogan, the AKP has transformed the Turkish political system and consolidated power in a manner unprecedented in the modern history of the republic. From a razor-thin majority of the popular vote, the AKP utilized state institutions to fundamentally reshape the Turkish political system to ensure their political survival and to keep President Erdogan in power for the foreseeable future. This paper analyzes the impact of Erdogan’s concentration of power on the Turkish political system. At the core of this analysis are two issues: the use of state institutions to consolidate power, and the characterization of these changes, both domestically and abroad. How does Erdogan utilize state institutions to systematically consolidate executive power in Turkey and how does this inform the broader study of authoritarian regimes? Drawing upon theories of authoritarianism and contemporary literature on Turkey, this paper explores how Erdogan consolidates power in the presidency using EU-endorsed reforms, constitutional referendums, and purges and how he reconstructs basic paradigms in civil-military relations in Turkey in his role as commander-in-chief. As this paper demonstrates, “democratic” reforms in Turkey were weaponized to erode competing institutions for power and to eliminate potential checks on the executive.

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