Professor Emre Erdogan: Turkish Opposition Must Adeptly Harness Power of ‘Good Populism’

Stating that populism’s appeal has not significantly diminished in Turkey despite the opposition’s recent win in local elections, Professor Emre Erdogan underscores the fact that even leading politicians within the opposition, such as Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu, exhibit certain populist characteristics. “Imamoglu’s use of populist rhetoric suggests that populism continues to hold sway in Turkish politics,” argues Professor Erdogan, urging the opposition in Turkey to adeptly harness the power of “good populism” to achieve success in upcoming elections.

Interview by Selcuk Gultasli

Professor Emre Erdogan, Head of the Department of International Relations at Bilgi University, Istanbul, sheds light on the enduring allure of populism in Turkey despite recent opposition victories in local elections. In an exclusive interview with the European Center for Populism Studies (ECPS), Professor Erdogan emphasizes the continued presence of populist characteristics even among leading opposition figures like Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoglu. He argues that Imamoglu’s use of populist rhetoric underscores the persistent influence of populism in Turkish politics and urges the opposition to adeptly harness the power of “good populism” to secure success in upcoming elections.

Professor Erdogan delves into strategic discussions surrounding populism, noting the advantages it affords in electoral contests and its role as a feedback mechanism within Turkey’s political landscape. He highlights the historical context of populism‘s rise, tracing its roots to the failures of the classical parliamentary system and the subsequent alienation of the populace. Despite criticisms of populism‘s negative consequences, Professor Erdogan asserts its necessity for system improvement, advocating for its skillful utilization by the opposition.

Examining the intersection of populism and authoritarianism, Professor Erdogan elucidates the unique characteristics of Turkey’s political regime, marked by a concentration of power and a lack of autonomous institutions. He underscores the pivotal role of fear in shaping populist discourse, particularly evident in the rhetoric of the ruling AKP to mobilize support and maintain its grip on power. Reflecting on recent election results, Professor Erdogan suggests that while populism‘s appeal persists, strategic alliances and shifts in voter preferences offer hope for potential change in Turkey’s political trajectory.

Moreover, Professor Erdogan offers a cautious prognosis on the future of Turkish politics, acknowledging the complexity of upcoming elections and the global resurgence of populism. While populist right-wing movements may continue to thrive, he remains skeptical of any immediate shift away from populism in the current political climate.


Here is the transcription of the interview with Professor Emre Erdogan with some edits.

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