Turkey, officially, is a candidate for full membership in the European Union. It is also negotiating with Brussels a deal that would allow millions of Turks to travel to Europe without visa. But Turkey is not like any other European country that joined or will join the EU: The Turks’ choice of a leader, in office since 2002, too visibly makes this country the odd one out.
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is now campaigning to broaden his constitutional powers, which would make him head of state, head of government and head of the ruling party — all at the same time — is inherently autocratic and anti-Western. He seems to view himself as a great Muslim leader fighting armies of infidel crusaders. This image with which he portrays himself finds powerful echoes among millions of conservative Turks and [Sunni] Islamists across the Middle East. That, among other excesses in the Turkish style, makes Turkey totally incompatible with Europe in political culture.
Yet, there is always the lighter side of things. Take, for example, Melih Gokcek, the mayor of Ankara and a bigwig in Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP). In February Gokcek claimed that earthquakes in a western Turkish province could have been organized by dark external powers (read: Western infidels) aiming to destroy Turkey’s economy with an “artificial earthquake” near Istanbul. According to this conspiracy theory, the mayor not only claims that the earthquake in western Turkey was the work of the U.S. and Israel, but also that the U.S. created the radical Islamic State (ISIS). In fact, according to him, the U.S. and Israel colluded to trigger an earthquake in Turkey so they could capture energy from the Turkish fault line.
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