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How Erdoğan gained near-absolute power in Turkey

A look at how leaders around the world rule and maintain power.

by Milena Mikael-Debass
Jul 16 2018, 4:15pm

When Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s critics and supporters call him "sultan," it’s not just a nickname. Although he started his political career as a moderate, his ever-tightening grip on power has since restricted opposition voices and tested traditional allies.

Exactly two years after a military coup failed to remove him from office, Erdoğan on Sunday issued a decree that essentially put the military under civilian control. His second term as president, which began on July 9 after a tight race — gave him sweeping new powers, including the ability to rule by decree.

Just the day before his 15-year rule was extended, Erdoğan used his post-coup emergency decree privileges for the last time to fire over 18,000 civil servants and cancel their passports for alleged ties to terror groups.

Before Erdoğan inched toward more autocratic rule, democratic reforms and economic growth defined his early years as prime minister. Initially lauded by the West, he helped kick off European Union membership talks for Turkey in 2005. But Erdoğan’s increasingly authoritarian tendencies over the past decade — notably his crackdown on political opposition — risks Turkey's shot at joining the EU. Following the 2016 coup, more than 100,000 people, including academics, judges, and journalists, were detained for alleged ties to the failed coup.

Although Erdoğan's party lost its parliamentary majority in the recent elections, his win opened the door to a new executive presidency with unprecedented powers.

"Meet Recep Tayyip Erdoğan" is the second installment of a video series exploring how global leaders rule and maintain power.

Cover image: Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan delivers a speech during a commemoration event for the second anniversary of a botched coup attempt, in Istanbul, Sunday, July 15, 2018. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel)