Ever since coming to power in November 2002, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won all elections he contested, almost always by increasing his popular support. In terms of achievement, however, Erdogan’s image and policies have not followed a steady trend. While his first decade in power was marked by reformist policies, the past five years have seen an ever-strengthening tilt toward authoritarianism. As a result, the same fundamental question has kept popping up: How does Erdogan manage to sustain his popular support and electoral success while facing so many accusations of authoritarianism and projecting such a nondemocratic image?
Ankara’s authoritarian policies have clearly peaked in the aftermath of the July 15 coup attempt. The record of the past four months is plain as day. The clampdown on Kurdish politicians and the liberal opposition — proceeding along with the purge of putschists, the suspension of freedoms, the drive to establish a political hegemony over the state and the arbitrariness in the justice system — have all reached unprecedented levels, coupled with a security-centered approach on the Kurdish question, a hard-line regional posture marked by military interventions and an increasingly fragile economy. So is Erdogan’s popular support going down this time?