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Erdoğan’s Decade

Erdoğan can be seen as the anti-Atatürk, the leader who seeks to undo substantial parts of his predecessor's legacy, especially Atatürk's rejection of Shari'a, or Islamic law.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan
Photo Credit: EPA

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Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has served longer than any person as prime minister of the Republic of Turkey, recently marked his completion of a full decade in that office, having entered it on March 14, 2003.

Born in February 1954, he is now 59 years old. And while he has a potentially long political career ahead of him, he reportedly suffers from some serious ailments that could cut it short.

Erdoğan’s main challenges are three-fold: an electorate increasingly wary of his domineering ways, an ever-more restive Kurdish population, and a problematic regional alignment in which, as Ian O. Lesser put it in analysis published yesterday, “Ankara faces some troubling cold wars, new and old, that will shape the strategic environment and the nature of Turkey’s security partnerships.”

The only comparable figure in modern Turkish history is Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the republic and dominant figure. It is reasonable to see Erdoğan as the anti-Atatürk, the leader who seeks to undo substantial parts of his predecessor’s legacy, especially his rejection of Shari’a, or Islamic law. One can also see Erdoğan as the politician who turns Islamism into a nearly viable political program.

Westerners have been conspicuously slow in understanding just what a threat Erdoğan presents; one can only hope that his second decade will prompt more understanding than the first.

Originally published as “Erdoğan’s Decade as Prime Minister of Turkey” at DanielPipes.org and The National Review Online, The Corner, March 14, 2013.

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About the Author: Daniel Pipes is a world-renowned Middle East and Islam expert. He is President of the Middle East Forum. His articles appear in many newspapers. He received his A.B. (1971) and Ph.D. (1978) from Harvard University and has taught at Harvard, Pepperdine, the U.S. Naval War College, and the University of Chicago. He is a board member of the U.S. Institute of Peace and other institutions. His website is DanielPipes.org.


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