07 June 2017, The Tablet

At the gates of Europe

by Laurent Mignon


The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey
Soner Cagaptay
(I.B. Tauris, 224 PP, £17.99)
tablet bookshop price £16.20 • tel 01420 592974

A “bloody difficult” man rules in Ankara. Angered by the narrow result in April’s constitutional referendum – marred by irregularities – that had been designed to legitimise his autocratic regime, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan must now be worried about the future of his political project, in a nation more divided than ever. Until now there has been no biography in English of the man who has challenged Europe many times and remains, despite everything, the most ­popular politician in Turkey. Soner Cagaptay’s The New Sultan tries to fill this gap.
Cagaptay relates the story of a young ­football-loving boy raised piously in an Istanbul working-class district, who ended up presiding over Turkey’s transformation in the twenty-first century – first as a champion of liberalising reforms and then as a populist leader whose increasing authoritarianism culminated in a huge purge after a failed coup attempt in July 2016. This is less a biography than a crash course in contemporary Turkish history and political Islam. Erdogan is a central figure of this narrative, having been a disciple of Necmettin Erbakan, the father of Turkish political Islam, and a leader of the reformist wing within Erbakan’s Virtue Party.

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