Antidemocratic Populism in Turkey after the July 2016 Coup Attempt

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Julius ROGENHOFER, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom
Under the leadership of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan Turkey’s right wing, conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP) fundamentally transformed both itself and the Turkish political realm: The AKP acceded to power in 2002 on promises of economic liberalisation and accession to the European Union. Over the course of one and a half decades the AKP steered Turkey from being the Middle East’s “model” of western-style democracy, via competitive authoritarianism, to autocracy. Instrumental for this transformation was Erdogan’s use of a new form of right wing, religious populism that systematically undermined the institutions of Turkish democracy by polarising society, capturing the public discourse and disregarding constitutional principles.

This paper examines the emergence of the AKP’s right wing, religious populism through three different analytical lenses: First, the historical development of democracy in Turkey and its shortcomings; second, an international comparison between the AKP’s brand of populism with political strategies employed by the Bharatiya Janata Party in India, the Law and Justice Party in Poland and Putin’s Russia; third, a study of the role of President Erdogan within the AKP and the corrupting effects of political power.

In undertaking this analysis, this paper sheds new light on the consistencies across right wing political movements throughout the world, particularly in their ability to instrumentalise religious conservatism, to challenge existing political institutions and to dominate the public discourse.