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What's Next for 'Sultan' Erdogan After Friday's Attempted Coup?

We asked an expert on international law about how the failed coup is likely to impact Turkish president Erdogan's hold on power.

This article originally appeared on VICE Greece

What's next for Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan? How will his political backing work now and how will he react to the latest developments as a reliable political figure on a diplomatic level? These are some of the critical questions that have arisen, in the wake of Friday's failed coup in Turkey.

VICE Greece got in touch with assistant professor of international law at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Miltiadis Sarigiannidis, for a better sense of what the next few days could be like for the "almighty sultan", as he was previously dubbed.


VICE: Hi Professor Sarigiannidis, first of all, I'd like a general comment on Turkey's future. What are your thoughts?
Miltiadis Sarigiannidis: Hard times are dawning on Turkey. Politically, the gap between the "Islamic government policy" that Erdogan has adopted in his own personal style, and the traditional Kemalist regime is widening.

What do you make of claims that the coup was "stage-managed"?
Anyone saying the coup was faked is probably wrong. Coups are not organised to provide an alibi, but to ensure there is no alibi. I'd reject the possibility of a conspiracy. Instead, I'd rather say there was probably an actual plot to overthrow Erdogan, which has just been revealed. This seems more plausible than the thought that Erdogan orchestrated the coup to justify himself and further consolidate his power.

Has Erdogan's image as an omnipotent leader taken a hit?
A big one, I think. Erdogan had been viewed, both within his country and abroad, as a powerful leader who enjoys popular legitimacy, manifest in the 52 percent majority he received. This image is shattered now; it has seized to exist. The man who, after Operation Sledgehammer, was supposed to have struck a blow against the military Kemalist regime and the so-called deep state, has obviously failed to do so.

He's been faced with a coup and this goes to show he doesn't control everything and he doesn't maintain full power over the military establishment. At the same time, I believe this will also have an effect on international relations. I don't think he will continue to be seen as a leader who enjoys broad political legitimacy and who can be a reliable ally.


What do you think his next moves will be?
I think he will try to capitalise on this popular legitimacy. Based on the incredibly high percentage of votes he garners, and the fact that he thwarted a coup, Erdogan will obviously attempt to present himself as a reborn leader of the people and defender of democracy. In this way, he will try to strengthen his political base, which is already large. However, all this talk about the media and the people taking to the streets to support him is probably an exaggeration, to a certain extent.

So who were the people who took to the streets?
Supporters of his party, AKP. They were being called to fight for Erdogan from mosque minarets until 3AM. Of course, anyone who feels their democratic sensibilities are being offended might react against an ongoing coup. But Erdogan's government does not constitute a democratic one, despite the fact that it was elected democratically, and since the plotters attempted to overthrow a leader who had been elected with huge mandate, they were not able to launch a coup in the name of democracy.

Consequently, I'd say his supporters took to the streets to defend their leader. Let me remind you, this mostly happened in Istanbul, where Erdogan used to be mayor and where he enjoys strong political support – that's why he chose to go there. But we didn't hear anything about the people taking to the streets in other cities like Izmir, for example, which is a Republican stronghold.


Erdogan had been viewed, both within his country and abroad, as a powerful leader who enjoys popular legitimacy, manifest in the 52 percent majority he received. This image is shattered now

Despite initial hesitation, world leaders did voice support for Turkey.
This was quite normal. I don't think anyone would expect any leader to make a statement supporting the coup. Their reaction was a mere formality; all governments are expected to act in this way. The point is that Erdogan's diplomatic prestige has suffered a serious blow.

What's next for him, as far as his relations with Syria and Russia are concerned?
Erdogan is called to establish bilateral relations with a compromised diplomatic prestige and he can no longer have an arrogant attitude towards his counterparts. Imagine, for example, how he will be treated by Assad. Erdogan accuses him of lacking popular support and now Assad can claim the same.

Do you think he will seek new "enemies"?
I don't believe the failed coup will provide Erdogan with the opportunity to capitalise on political goodwill, in order to rule Turkey. We have yet to see what his next move will be, of course. I wouldn't be surprised if he tried to redirect responsibility for the coup away from the military. He certainly wants to maintain control over the military, so he would rather accuse his political opponents, like Gulen, for example, or the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK).

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