President Erdogan’s strategy of creating instability had worked. His country was put in a permanent state of exception so that voters turned to him in search of stability. There is an often recited formula about German politics: “Crisis times are the chancellor’s times.” The regained majority of the AKP in the Nov. 1 elections certainly has affirmed that formula.
Yet Erdogan is still in need of a two-thirds majority in Parliament to change the regime into a presidential system officially. This time, however, he has bet on a concept of war, hoping to be as successful as in the last elections which he won because he had already systematically weakened the institutions of the state and freed himself from the shackles of parliamentary control. He brought the state institutions under his personal control, procured his own new instruments of power and has established a de facto presidential system. This is the interim report on a silent coup.
The pillars that bear the de facto presidential system consist of three forces: the legislative, executive, and the judicial — an independent press can also be counted as a fourth force in many democracies. Erdogan already rules a majority of the Parliament, the Department of Justice, security departments, and media, besides civilian institutions, such as the powerful Turkish Foundation for Youth and Education, which is largely run by Erdogan’s son Bilal. A deeper look inside this power machinery should facilitate understanding of the Erdogan system.
While the AKP propaganda machine is kept in motion, Erdogan has additionally accumulated a sizable state “reptile fund” of 170 million euros. This fund is subject to secrecy; no parliamentary record of it exists. The “Reptile fund” goes back to Reichskanzler Otto von Bismarck, who organized such a secret fund to combat enemies of the state—he called them “wicked reptiles”—and with this fund he financed operations including secret police measures.
The institutional power of the president is fuelled by social support and an Islamic religious basis that is motivated by a strong Führer cult. In Turkey, there are many Erdogan admirers, who are ready at any moment to die for him, to defend him, and to threaten critics of the government or even to beat up journalists. To tell the truth, all the things point on President Erdogan, sitting in his palace and seeing himself as restorer of the Ottoman empire.