ISBN: 978-0-8157-3000-2 (print) / 978-0-8157-3001-9 (online)
Pavel K Baev
Peace Research Institute Oslo (PRIO)
More than 30 years of research by a well-respected Turkish academic are invested in this book, and 77 pages of endnotes show a great depth and variety of sources. There is, nevertheless, an unmistakable puzzlement and deep concern about Turkey’s present-day trajectory. These feelings are not about Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose evolution from an energetic populist leader to a harsh and narrow-minded autocrat receives a thoughtful and insightful examination. The anxious bewilderment is about the shift in Turkey’s public opinion and political elite orientations from the traditional Kemalist commitment to assert the belonging to the West and to strive to join the EU to the mistrust in the Western norms and values and the angry anti-Americanism. This shift is certainly not total, and nearly half of the votes against Erdogan’s proposal at the April 2017 constitutional referendum provide solid evidence of the strength of the opposition. Yet, the viciousness of repressions unleashed after the July 2017 coup attempt against every kind of discontent is shocking even for seasoned observers of Turkish turmoil, and Kirişci is sincerely depressed about the consequences of the still on-going clamp-down. He finds the scenario of returning to a more pragmatist and liberal course less likely than the one in which Erdoğan ‘in a moment of populist frenzy, could break completely with the West’ (p. 190). His middle-of-the-road forecast is a ‘new Turkey’ shaped by a ‘mixture of Islam and intolerant Turkish nationalism’ (p. 191) but maintaining its institutional ties with the West. Erdoğan’s foreign policy track record is remarkably rich in failures, but his political base stays loyal, empowering him to experiment with new risky initiatives.