In the past several months, former Turkish Prime Minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has made international headlines for statements about the roles and rights of women in Turkey, for constructing a massive new presidential palace, and for arrests of journalists. Some opponents worry that Erdoğan intends to impose his brand of Islamism on the long-secular Turkish political system. This month, historian Patrick Scharfe reminds us that Erdoğan’s agenda also involves fundamentally rewriting the Turkish constitution to create a powerful presidency in place of its traditional figurehead role. To understand where the Turkish political system might be headed under Erdoğan requires us to understand the historical forces and military coups that have shaped it.
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