My piece on the “Bureaucratic Oligarchy”

I have long been thinking about writing on Erdogan’s notion of “Bureaucratic Oligarchy.” I think it’s a key term in understanding Turkish politics. The pre-referendum days seemed a particularly appropriate time for it, so here it is.

The piece has had a mixed reception. Some people actually thought that I was trying to “legitimize Erdoğan” and, and a few troll accounts labelled me an apologist. That was strange. They must have been referring to the part towards the end, where I describe what the presidential system means to its top supporters. Maybe they expected me to chime in midway, just to basically say “this is all a bad idea,” or make some personal remark about Erdoğan. I didn’t do that mostly because the description of the system – as it exists in the minds of those who advocate for it – is what I wanted to bring to attention. People can make up their own minds about things.

Anyone who wants a story about heroes and villains should read comic books. I write about politics.

Post-July15 writing

Below are the pieces I wrote since the attempted coup on July 15.

Turkey’s Last Coup: What I Saw in Ankara: I was running around the streets almost all night during the coup and the next morning, trying to figure out what was happening. I then went home, downed a couple cans of Red Bull, and wrote out my observations as best as I could.

It’s still hard to believe it happened. It’s as if the whole country phased out of reality for a night, and as we now know, never really found its way back.

Fetullah Gülen’s Race to the Top is Over: Immediately after the coup, the government blamed the Gülen movement began to purge it from state  institutions (later also from business, academia, media, and other parts of society.) My TEPAV colleague Hüseyin Raşit Yılmaz and I wrote this piece to give readers context into why the Gülenist purge was focusing on education, especially in its early days. The piece ended up being one of the first to zoom out and give non-Turkey watchers an idea of the civil war between the AK Party government and the Gülenists.

The Meaning of Turkey’s Five Million Strong Nationalist Movement: Immediately after the post-July 15 period, it was clear that the AK Party government was more powerful than ever before. For those who were against the coup but also opposed the government’s increasingly authoritarian leanings, it was (and remains) a very scary and pessimistic time. The truth is though, that things can always get worse. This piece was an exercise in thinking about the forces that prevented those worse outcomes from happening.

I have since been traveling a lot and took some time off from work. In the coming weeks and months, I will be going back to my usual beat of political Islam, Turkish politics and the occasional bit of political economy.

Turkish Nationalism and the MHP

My latest piece goes into the nature of Turkish nationalism, how it perceives itself, and its possible role, through the MHP, in Turkish politics today. You can read it here.

It’s the product of long conversations with friends in the MHP, particularly ones who have been active in Meral Akşener’s campaign for the party’s leadership. I’ve also been attending some of their rallies over the past few months and report my experiences.

The ongoing legal process in the MHP is very complicated, and has evolved much faster than I am able to cover. My hope though, is that the piece will contribute to a more nuanced understanding of Turkish nationalism.

What the Turkish state thinks about Central Asian integration

My TEPAV colleague Timur Kaymaz and I have been tracking Chinese and Russian economic plans in Central Asia and its implications for Turkey. Last year, the European Council of Foreign Relations asked us to interview bureaucrats, businessmen, and experts about Turkey’s policy regarding China’s Belt and Road initiative, as well as Russia’s Eurasian Economic Union.

The report we produced is now out. You can read it here.