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Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Transcends Complex Politics of Turkey -

Here's the second article in a series on Turkey in the NY Times by Anthony Shadid, this one focusing on Tayip Erdoğan (the first one explored the Ottoman legacy of trans-border ties in the Middle East).
“He’s a phenomenon, really,” said Yilmaz Esmer, a professor of political science at Bahcesehir University.
At a rally this month in Koaceli, another industrial town, Mr. Erdogan strode into a stadium packed with tens of thousands of supporters with the swagger of a brawler, legs slightly apart and stooped shoulders swaying. A crowd that had waited hours grew ecstatic. Mr. Erdogan took the stage in a suit with no tie, his hard stare hidden behind sunglasses.
“We didn’t come to rule!” he declared to adulation. “We came to serve you!”
The portrait in this piece rimes well with the praise for Erdoğan's skills as a politician that I heard from a visiting Turkish scholar not to long ago. It was clearly reluctant praise, but praise none the less. While he often appears clumsy, brash, and emotional to an international audience, Erdoğan is incredibly popular in Turkey.

By the way: The back story to the author of the piece is interesting. Here's how Anthony Shadid is described on the NYT website:
Anthony Shadid is the Beirut bureau chief for The New York Times. He was one of four Times journalists covering the fighting in eastern Libya who were reported missing on March 16, 2011.

The Libyan government released Mr. Shadid and the other journalists on March 21, six days after they were captured while covering the conflict between government and rebel forces in the eastern city of Ajdabiya. They were released into the custody of Turkish diplomats and crossed safely into Tunisia in the late afternoon.
What more is, the Turkish government reportedly played a key role in the process leading up to their release. If I were prone to conspiracy theories, I would suggest that Mr. Shadid stands in debt of gratitude to the Turkish leadership, which might bias his reporting. But I really am not prone to such thinking. And the piece does not shy away from criticizing Erdoğan:

Mr. Erdogan’s own authoritarian streak — his sensitivity to caricatures, disdain of criticism and methodical attempts to dismantle the old-guard secular elite in the military and courts — has lost the party some of the liberal support that it had early on.
In all, both pieces are well worth reading.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan Transcends Complex Politics of Turkey -
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