Reforming the Republic of Turkey: Erdoğan’s Power Project

By Kyle R.Brady

erdoganAfter the military-led July 2016 coup attempt failed to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in July 2016, a counter-coup effort was initiated by Erdogan to remove any alleged co-conspirators from power. At the time, Erdoğan’s retaliation was expected but the initial response was still overblown, with structurally damaging and problematic consequences to both civil society and the international theatre. In the months following, Erdoğan has undertaken a massive effort that appears to target any enemies – real, perceived, or invented – who stand in opposition to his goals to reform the country. In a continued state of emergency, with expanded national security powers, and with more than 125,000 Turks already removed or suspended from their positions within the military or government, the counter-coup cleanup has clearly exceeded external expectations as the country moves toward autocracy.

Additionally, the formal restructuring of the Republic of Turkey and its government has begun, as the legislature has proposed substantial constitutional reforms that would empower the Presidency and, therefore, Erdoğan. As this is in line with the other Turkish power restructurings in the latter half of 2016, it seems abundantly clear that Erdoğan will not cease his Turkish reformation until fully empowered as its leader. Moreover, this threat-inspired reform will continue to exploit fear and shadowy enemies as the violent attacks on the civilian population – regularly attributed to the Kurds and ISIS — continue.

The consequences of this threat-inspired reform seem to be extraordinarily wide-ranging. The primary and most fundamental casualty derives from the attack on Turkey’s political structure, no longer democratic: the Republic now seems to be authoritarian, if not a burgeoning autocracy. As this reform and conversion process continues, Turkey’s hope for membership in the European Union declines in tandem. Further, the Turkish people will suffer politically, ideologically, and perhaps even theologically, as any autocracy does not tolerate dissent, opposing political views, or alternative belief systems — this intolerance was initiated with the purges.

In light of the birth of a New Cold War, of significant concern to the wider world may be the budding relationship between Turkey and Russia, as they grow closer in their ties, stronger in their coordination, streamlined in their interests, and more similar in their state behaviors [1]. As a NATO member state and a long-term ally of the United States, Turkey’s drift toward authoritarianism, autocracy, and anti-Western sensibilities present a substantial problem to Western leaders in terms of alliances, reliability, and trustworthiness. Moreover, the difficulties presented by the apparent failure of a non-Western, non-European democracy cannot be overstated, as it very clearly presents a counterargument for attempts to bring democracy to the region.

As these purges and authoritarian trends continue, the overall distance between Turkey’s democratic past and authoritarian present remains to be seen.  Whether Turkey maintains its NATO membership, EU candidacy, and Western ally status, the country will remain an important regional power with an essential role in the dual interests of the present:  a resurgent Russia and regional counter-terrorism efforts.  In the meantime, however, Erdoğan will grow both his positioning and power, while freedom, liberty, and peace will continue to suffer within the borders of his state.

Kyle R. Brady (@KyleBradyOnline) is a security-oriented academic with a primary interest in contextualizing security concerns, which he currently explores as a postgraduate student at King’s College London in the Department of War Studies. He also holds a Masters in Homeland Security from Pennsylvania State University with foci on terrorism, public administration, and emergency management, and a Bachelors in Political Science from San Jose State University with interests in international relations and political theory.  You can find Kyle’s work at,, or email him at


[1] Hennigan, W.J., and Brian Bennett. “Russia, Turkey Expand Military Operations in Syria during Trump’s Transition to Power.” Los Angeles Times, 17 November 2016, available at Also see MacFarquhar, Neil. “Warming Relations in Person, Putin and Erdogan Revive Pipeline Deal.” New York Times, 10 October 2016, available at, and Fraser, Suzan, and Dominique Soguel. “UN Expert Says Torture Appeared Widespread after Turkey Coup.” Washington Post, 2 December 2016 available at

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