On April 16, 2017, Turkey narrowly voted yes on a constitutional referendum that gave sweeping powers to the president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He will have complete control of the military and budget, can appoint judges to the court at will, and can dissolve parliament at any time. A longer term limit also allows Erdoğan to remain in power until 2029.
This sudden accumulation of power has many accusing Erdoğan of becoming a dictator. And these accusations are not out of the blue. In the past few years, Erdoğan has shown some authoritarian tendencies. He’s used the police to crack down on protests, jail journalists, and increase state control of the media.
What makes this particularly interesting is that Turkey has a history of authoritarianism starting with its founder and first dictator, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. He was a military general who became Turkey’s first president in 1923. He held similar powers as Erdoğan, and he used them to rapidly modernize Turkey into a secular democracy.
But Erdoğan has different plans. He is using his power to undo Atatürk’s work, leaving many to worry about the future of Turkey. This video traces the history of Turkey, and how the legacy of Atatürk set the stage for the rise of Tayyip Erdoğan.