Turkey’s recent transition to authoritarianism has been a curious topic for scholars who hailed it as as successful case of Muslim governance models. Despite its plummeting scores in rule of law, democracy and liberties unanimously noted by the independent agencies, Erdoğan continued to enjoy the support of both erstwhile and current Islamists in both Turkey, Muslim-majority world and the Muslim diaspora, who have been seasoned advocates of Islamic democracy. Does this continuous support for Erdoğan’s autocratic regime represent a corresponding intellectual shift in the trajectory of Muslim governance models such that they have come to embrace authoritarian religious populism at the expense of the idea of an Islamic democracy? Through an analysis of Turkey’s democratic breakdown by engaging with the Turkish studies literature, this talk will propose a narrative of gradual deterioration of democracy by identifying the slow build-up of autocracy beginning with the earliest days of Erdoğan’s tenure.
Given the success record of Erdoğan’s global bid for Muslim leadership, the speaker will inquire whether Turkey has come to serve as an “authoritarian model” for the Muslim-majority world. Resisting the ideological analyses that reduce Turkey’s de-democratization to AKP’s so-called “Islamist” ideology, Yenigün will discuss the lasting effects of Erdoğan’s bid for Muslim leadership and his patronage of Islamists on Islamism’s trajectory and its relationship with democracy. Islamists’ preference for strong religious populist leaders in contradistinction with their longstanding declared principles of Islamic good governance may thus have illustrated the use of democratic means to create a decisively authoritarian state instead of providing a democratic model for the Muslim world, as Turkey under the AKP was once promoted.