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Turkey

Erdogan's Unique Recipe Of Nearly Absolute Power

Why was President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's supposed ally forced out of the Prime Minister post? The answer lies in the particular ambitions of this Turkish leader.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, November, 2015
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan speaking at an Organization of Islamic Cooperation economy meeting in Istanbul, Turkey, November, 2015
Nuray Mert

ISTANBUL — Good thing that Davutoglu kept his silence.

The die-hard supporters of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were on the verge of calling outgoing Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu a "coup conspirator." For you never can tell what those surrounding the President might end up doing once accusations start circulating about being "Germany's man" or "America's man."

This is how things are in Turkey right now: You can't tell who might be run off the path at any given moment. The answers to the question: "What was Davutoglu's crime?" come from the people of his own party, his own political mission. His crime, fault, sin was this: the level of "compliance" was not sufficient.

"He did not understand that the system had changed," one observer said of Davutoglu, a longtime ally of Erdogan.

Well, to be truthful, we are having a hard time gauging this "system change" too. There is a major change underway in Turkey, but it has nothing to do with any kind of a system — but in fact is the lack of one. Let us remember that scene years ago when Erdogan was Prime Minister, and as part of the tradition on the Turkish children's annual holiday, a child symbolically sits in the Prime Minister's seat. "Now, you have the authority," Erdogan told the child. "You hang whoever you want, you slay whoever you want. You have everything."

It was understood in time that the office of prime minister, or even now the presidency, were never enough for Erdogan. These positions still do not let you to hang or slay at will. And thus, a "Turkish-style presidency" is now being born.

I don't know if Erdogan's ambitions have anything to do with Turkishness. It reminds me of the "Eastern despotism" imagined in the heads of Orientalists in the West. We have been forced to argue against these ideas that despotism, or "sultanism," is somehow exclusive to the East or to the Ottoman Empire. The truth is that there was political and institutional order that enabled the reign over a vast geography for centuries. But, it is clear that our political Islamists, just like western Orientalists, believe our "historic legacy" was the arbitrary rule of an individual. Now we hear people calling this a "Turkish-style presidency."

Full compliance

And yet now we see the transformation, of which even Davutoglu became an obstacle, into a total arbitrary approach to governance; a call for full compliance that can be summed up as: "Allah is great, Erdogan is our leader."

It's almost surprising that they haven't sought to eliminate the parliament, constitution and the supreme judiciary because, ultimately, Erdogan believes he knows better than everyone about everything. All those institutions would be unnecessary within the scope of the ideas of the presidency they are throwing around. Of course, parts of those institutions must remain so there are positions and opportunities to hand out to the loyalists, to keep alive the "who is more loyal to the chief" race — always run under the disguise of "the cause."

Now Davutoglu, who might have been considered the last check on power, at least in terms of foreign policy, is gone. I am afraid that the sequel in the Turkey film series will be highly violent. Children should be kept away.

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Society

Parenthood And The Pressure Of Always Having To Be Doing Better

As a father myself, I'm now better able to understand the pressures my own dad faced. It's helped me face my own internal demands to constantly be more productive and do better.

Photo of a father with a son on his shoulders

Father and son in the streets of Madrid, Spain

Ignacio Pereyra*

-Essay-

When I was a child — I must have been around eight or so — whenever we headed with my mom and grandma to my aunt's country house in Don Torcuato, outside of Buenos Aires, there was the joy of summer plans. Spending the day outdoors, playing soccer in the field, being in the swimming pool and eating delicious food.

But when I focus on the moment, something like a painful thorn appears in the background: from the back window of the car I see my dad standing on the sidewalk waving us goodbye. Sometimes he would stay at home. “I have to work” was the line he used.

Maybe one of my older siblings would also stay behind with him, but I'm sure there were no children left around because we were all enthusiastic about going to my aunt’s. For a long time in his life, for my old man, those summer days must have been the closest he came to being alone, in silence (which he liked so much) and in calm, considering that he was the father of seven. But I can only see this and say it out loud today.

Over the years, the scene repeated itself: the destination changed — it could be a birthday or a family reunion. The thorn was no longer invisible but began to be uncomfortable as, being older, my interpretation of the events changed. When words were absent, I started to guess what might be happening — and we know how random guessing can be.

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