07 June 2017
At the gates of Europe
The New Sultan: Erdogan and the Crisis of Modern Turkey
(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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