COMMENT

Erdogan's hubris

By Alexis Papachelas

Someone should tell Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan that his behavior is bordering on hubris, in the classical sense of the word. It is clear to observers of Turkish affairs that the country’s leader is out of control. His reaction to the protests at Taksim, his comments over the recent tragedy at the mine in Soma and many more incidents reveal a man who is out of touch with reality and his people. One could argue that this is something that tends to happen to powerful leaders who remain in power for years and start to develop a god complex. But the problem with Erdogan is that he can neither hide nor control his overinflated ego. Western observers are even looking for medical reasons to explain his behavior – his impatience and the tactlessness. It is common knowledge that his health is an issue.

The simple fact, however, is that he has managed to insult US President Barack Obama, Israel’s Shimon Peres and a string of other world leaders. For the time being, though, the Turkish people, or at least a significant majority, appears to be tolerating him. For the masses in the hinterland and the poor neighborhoods of Istanbul, Erdogan is the man who put them “in the system” and gave them a taste of prosperity. The urban elite, for its part, is terrified, fragmented and unable to react. The media are being kept on a tight leash and there seems to be no serious opposition on the horizon. Nevertheless, many believe that Ergodan is rapidly using up his political capital and will soon face the consequences of his hubris.

We cannot deny that Erdogan has radically changed Turkey and given it new momentum. His success in foreign policy has been more questionable, opening whole new fronts of tension and failing to forge any solid strategic alliances. That said, the country is still a force to be reckoned with, both on an economic and strategic level.

Until recently, the Turkish premier’s approach toward Greece was cautious and predictable. But if the domestic crisis in Turkey intensifies along with Erdogan’s increasingly erratic behavior, Athens will need to be on its toes. Threats regarding the fate of Hagia Sophia or the appearance of extreme elements in Thrace could seriously sour bilateral relations. After all, tension between the two neighbors has always reached a peak when one or the other was facing a deep political crisis.

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