Speaking to reporters at the conclusion of a nuclear security summit last week in Washington, President Obama said that he is troubled with some authoritarian trends within Turkey when asked whether he considers the Turkish leader an authoritarian.
"(Erdogan) came into office with a promise of democracy," Obama said. "And Turkey has historically been a country in which deep Islamic faith has lived side by side with modernity and an increasing openness. And that's the legacy that he should pursue, rather than a strategy that involves repression of information and shutting down democratic debate."
It is correct that when Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party in Turkish) took office in 2002, many intellectuals in Turkey and abroad were convinced that Erdogan's commitment to democratization was promising.
The first term of the AK Party rule, which is considered as a golden era, broadly extends from 2002 to 2007. This era is characterized by high and inclusive economic growth, coupled with significant reforms on the democratization front, ranging from a radical reordering of civil-military relations to the recognition of minority rights, including the language and cultural rights to Kurdish citizens.
This initial high performance had created a certain level of trust towards Erdogan's rule among the liberal intellectuals of Turkey, assuming that, by time, the Justice and Development Party would get rid of the nondemocratic aspects of the Turkish governmental system.
Between 2009 and 2011, Erdogan's AK Party successfully managed to ensure the legal framework that would prevent military interventions that Turkey suffered in the past. But the end result was not a consolidated democracy as it was expected, but a highly personalized autocracy embodied around the figure of Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The main reason that liberal intellectuals failed to see Erdogan's real ambitions was the very belief that the elimination of the military tutelage and other secular institutions such as judiciary would be sufficient to lead a democracy. It did not. It was correct that these institutions failed to create a functional democracy in the past but it was wrong to believe that weakening these institutions would lead to the emergence of a democracy.
It has to be stressed that it wasn't only the Turkish liberals that were prey to the Erdogan fallacy. Even some leading international think-tank organizations failed to forecast the future of Turkish Democracy. For instance, in some future scenarios detailed by Rand Corporation in 2008, four possible scenarios in a sequence from the strongest to the weakest were produced: a) AKP pursues a moderate and EU-oriented path, b) AKP pursues a more aggressive Islamist agenda, c) Judicial closing of the JDP and d) Military intervention.
For the authors, the regression from Turkish democracy was not even likely: 'In this scenario, the reelected AKP government pursues a more aggressive Islamist agenda. With full control of the executive and legislative branches of government, the AKP is able to appoint administrators, judges, and university rectors and even to influence personnel decisions in the military.'
The authors of the Rand Corporation concluded that this scenario is less likely because it would lead to greater political polarization and would likely provoke intervention by the military and second, most Turks support a secular state and oppose a state based on the shari'a and EU membership has been a core element of the AKP's foreign policy. Professor Andrew Arato of The New School in New York suggests that the liberal intellectuals understandably failed to see the logic of Erdogan's actions, because of their own conflict with the military tutelage in the past.
During all these years, Erdogan's main goal was to establish an executive power over the judiciary in a move that would violate the separation of powers. Erdogan's personality traits and leadership style also played a crucial role on the transformation of the political system in Turkey.
Erdogan's authoritarian charisma and narcissistic personality organization provide evidences that he would be willing to rule Turkey as an ' indisputable sole leader' but not a democratic leader. Readily available data provides evidences that authoritarian charismatic leaders with narcissistic personality organization tend to be dictators.
A new regime has already been established in Turkey, in which all power is monopolized by a single person, Erdogan, without any check and balance mechanism.
A country without any check and balance mechanism brings only instability to its people and to the world. Many believe that West turns a blind eye toward Erdogan's autocratic rule in return to its support against ISIL.
But is Erdogan's government a reliable ally against ISIL?
Turkey is a NATO ally but is it cooperative against ISIL?
Without Turkey's supply line, could ISIL defend all their territory with the weapons and ammunition they took over from the Iraqi Army? How did ISIL's trained members pass easily into Europe to attack civilians?