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Politics

The Economist Says Turkey Nears Dictatorship, Threat to Greece, Cyprus

ATHENS – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken his country to the “brink of disaster” and could become an all-out dictator as he fears being topped from power in elections coming in May, said the newspaper The Economist.

It warned that weakness by United States President Joe Biden, the European Union and NATO has only emboldened Erdogan to become even more autocratic after a 2016 purge of civil society, the military, courts and education systems after a failed 2016 coup attempt against him.

And the report pointed to the dangers to Greece – Erdogan has repeatedly warned of an invasion unless Greece takes troops off Aegean islands near Turkey’s coast – and to Cyprus, where Turkey is drilling for oil and gas offshore.

Erdogan could cause trouble for Greece and Cyprus by “foment (ing) fiercer territorial quarrels, the report noted, Turkey and Turkish-Cypriots setting aside any idea of reunification talks for Cyprus and insisting the world accept the occupied northern third of the island.

“Erdogan’s behaviour as the election approaches could push what is today a deeply flawed democracy over the edge into a full-blown dictatorship,” as he has moved to lock out challengers, notably the Mayor of Istanbul whom a court ordered jailed for calling election officials who annulled his first mayoral victory “idiots.”

As he nears a third decade of ruling, Erdogan has become more volatile and aggressive, using the threat of vetoing the accession hopes of Finland and Sweden to NATO get Biden to push the US Congress to sell Turkey more F-16’s that could be used against Greece, and upgrade Turkey’s Air Force.

“He sits in a vast palace snapping orders at courtiers too frightened to tell him when he is wrong. His increasingly eccentric beliefs swiftly become public policy,” the article said, although opposition is rising among the populace.

REAL BULLY PULPIT

“Erdogan is a bully who sees timidity as a reason to press his advantage and toughness as an incentive to mend fences,” the report added, with evidence it has worked to get the EU to back off sanctions for provocations against Greece.

The report said he has slid into a hard-line authoritarian rule after initially making some gains through reforms that initially boosted the economy, but that his idiosyncratic behavior has intimidated economist in the central bank and brought 64 percent inflation.

Turkey began membership talks with the EU in 2005 but now, 18 years later, the prospect is eluding him as journalists are being jailed and dissidents hunted down in exile, the West reluctant to take him on because of the the country’s geopolitical position and having the second-largest military among NATO members, which includes Greece.

There’s worry that if pushed too far he will again try to flood the EU – largely through Greece – with waves of refugees and migrants, Turkey holding some 4.4 million of them who had gone there fleeing war, strife and economic hardship in their homelands, mainly Syria and Afghanistan.

“He has steadily co-opted institutions and eroded checks and balances. He has turned much of the media into a tool of state propaganda. He has, in effect, censored the Internet. He has thrown many critics, including opposition leaders, into jail,” said the paper.

“Under him, elections have seldom been completely fair, but they have been broadly free, with large numbers of voters taking part. The worry this time is that, with … Erdogan fearing defeat, he alights and ensures that the elections are neither fair nor free,” the report said.

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