Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his coat of many colours

At present, it is hard to think of the Turkish President in glowing terms, mainly because his power stems from street violence, and the many vociferous supporters who gladly undertake his dirty work. To understand why this is, is probably to understand Turkey itself – to some extent its postmodern history – and its formation in the hands of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Although it is clear that Erdoğan is a man of the people, it is also hard not to notice his ambiguous stance on Islam, his political gambles, his ruthless pursuit of power, and finally, his unique brand of demagoguery. Claiming to maintain the principles of Ataturk’s Turkey, it may be that he has quite a different venue in mind.

No matter how many portraits we may see of Ataturk, hanging in Turkish government offices, within the shops and bazaars or even modern shopping malls, it is clear that Atatuk’s latter-day successor, is hell-bent on reversing many of the principles of a secular society, replacing it with an Islamic state, and finally, his own brand of dictatorship.

Erdoğan likes to be listened to a lot, and famous for his interminable speeches, there is no doubt in my mind, that he was directly responsible for a dose of food poisoning I suffered – together with a guest – when we visited the town of Ederne, and a well-known restaurant, during the 2015 local authority elections.

Contrary to Turkish Presidential rules, and loudly broadcasting over the local tannoy system, Erdoğan regaled the people of Turkey, with his unique brand of political impartiality. This unending political rant – in his trademark loud and monotonous voice – was so absorbing, that the restaurant staff managed to poison the only customers they had that afternoon, or, more accurately, two bloody foreigners interrupting the political debate.

Emanating from relatively humble beginnings, Erdoğan is the sum of his many myths, and likes to be seen as a man from the streets. Yet he is building the largest palace in the western world, on the site of the Ataturk Forest and Zoo in the capital, Ankara. Cause for the people of Ankara to demonstrate in the streets, their intransigence was finally stemmed, by Erdoğan’s good old standby; a dose of police brutality.

Sounding more like Saddam Hussein, than a man wishing to join the European Union – and its many ‘almost’ federated states- it is hard to see this ever happening, in my view, within the next hundred years or so. And what about visa-free travel to the EU for all Turks? Well, the jury is still out on that point, and many European politicians are now regretting, trying to play the Turkish President at his own game.So what has happened in the recent past?

Erdoğan has shot down a Russian bomber, which has upset his nemesis Vladimir Putin and although Putin is his secret role model, he has managed to close the door to to the largest vegetable market in Eastern Europe, and his own burgeoning Turkish tourist industry.

He has agreed to let the US fly their missions to Syria and Iraq from Turkey, while bombing the hell out of the Kurds as a trade-off, and blaming the Kurds for almost everything, including ISIS bombs and terrorist attacks.

In the event of a Turkish Army uprising, intended to encourage a carefully considered regimen of secularism, although he has managed to put down this recent so called coup d’etat, he is now advocating a return to capital punishment, whilst arresting half the Turkish judiciary, detaining a couple of Turkish armies, and accusing them of all of being traitorous. If he is right, the hangman will be pleased! So where does this ex footballer, – myth maker, ex jailbird and professional loudmouth – stand right now?


There is no question about who his supporters are, many of whom have been enjoying the rewards of a Turkish economic revival, but they also view the EU as their natural marketplace, or even the poor Brexited UK! However, even demagogues can’t manipulate the entire Western world, and when the US starts to have second thoughts about Erdoğans place in Europe, as Turkey begins to look like just another blighted Middle eastern state, what will our man of the people do then?

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Patrick Brigham

Born in Berkshire, England to an old Reading family, having attended English Public School and a stint at college, author Patrick Brigham moved to London, and went into real estate. After the economic crash of 1989, he licked his wounds, wrote two books, and in 1993 he decided to abandon London, the UK casino economy, and moved to Sofia, Bulgaria. As the editor-in-chief of the Sofia Western News, the first English news magazine in Bulgaria  – between 1995 and 2000 – and as a journalist, he witnessed the political changes in this once hard-core communist country. There, he personally knew most of the political players, including the old communist Dictator, Todor Zhivkov, and his successors, Presidents Jhelev and Stoyanov. He is the author of Herodotus: The Gnome of Sofia, Judas Goat: The Kennet Narrow Boat Mystery, Abduction: An Angel over Rimini, and finally, The Dance of Dimitrios. He has also recently published a play called Judicial Review. Patrick's website: