There are authoritarians and there are tyrants, and sometimes they’re the same person. But would a true tyrant put himself up to face the people in an election that could be free and maybe even fair?
With Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan, we’re going to find out the exact flavor of authoritarian he is on Sunday, May 14, and in the days immediately following. Erdogan has been in power in his nation of more than 80 million people for nearly two decades, and in some ways, he’s brought it to near ruin, with economic policies based more on his gut than sound economic theory.
He’s also not much on newspapers, freedom of information, or freedom of speech.
On the other hand, no one is going to doubt the importance of his country on the world stage. Erdogan has become something like the Bosporus itself, a gateway or meeting point between NATO and Moscow, and even Iran occasionally. That sounds good, but it hasn’t made the West particularly happy. In one of the most recent examples, Turkey’s veto is the only thing standing between Sweden and NATO membership. Erdogan says it has to do with Sweden harboring Kurdish terrorists, but, like buying S-400 missile batteries from Russia, it could just be a thumb in the eye of all concerned.
Maybe the U.S. should just sell Turkey those F-16s it wants.
The main question, however, is what Erdogan will do when all the votes are counted. If he loses, does he go away? If he wins, does he take away more freedoms from Turks and become the tyrant he always had the potential of becoming?
To answer these questions, Angry Planet spoke with Steven Cook of the Council on Foreign relations. He had some surprising thoughts—and a wager.