Can a strongman draw such huge spontaneous crowds?

Published 16.07.2018 23:38

President Erdoğan has a special place in the hearts of the masses who want him to stay on and lead the country

Did you see the magnificent, huge crowd that turned out Sunday night on the July 15 Martyrs' Bridge – the former Bosporus Bridge – to commemorate the 250 fallen of the July 15, 2016 coup attempt?

Did you see the huge crowds that turned out all around the country's major city squares to commemorate the occasion and listen to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan address the nation?

These were the same crowds that flocked into the streets to stop tanks and armored vehicles used by the coup plotters. President Erdoğan had called them into the streets to put an end to the coup and they complied. These were the flag-waving crowds that were shot at and killed by the coup plotters. These were the crowds that foiled a sinister coup attempt by Fetullah Gülen and his gang who are still being given refuge in the United States.

So the crowds have deep affection for Erdoğan and that is why he won 52.5 percent of the votes in the first round against five other candidates at the polls where 88 percent of the registered voters turned up to vote. That is manifestation of popularity at the highest degree in a democracy where elections were perfectly democratic and the leading left-wing candidate at the presidential polls conceded defeat saying he lost "fair and square."

It is clear President Erdoğan has a special place in the hearts of the masses who want him to stay on and lead the country. Why all the affection and the popularity?

Erdoğan is a man of the earth. He speaks the language of the ordinary man in the street. He feels like the ordinary man in the street. Thus, he knows what the ordinary person in the streets wishes and acts accordingly.

During his 16-year rule, he has provided normal working people with proper social security, extensive health services unmatched anywhere else in the world and a relative prosperity that was never experienced before. People who never dreamed of air travel can now afford to fly anywhere domestically with great ease.

He became the hope of the poor and the needy not only in Turkey but throughout the world. The oppressed of the world looked up to Erdoğan for relief and hope. That is why on the night of the coup attempt people were praying all over the Muslim world for the survival of the Erdoğan administration.

Iron-fist rule and strongman tactics do not work in a country like Turkey. They are short lived and unproductive. That is why after every coup like in 1960, 1971 and 1980 the military junta rules have always been short-lived and military rulers have opted to return to civilian or semi-civilian rule simply because they knew the people would turn against them. That is why after every coup period people voted for candidates who were not in favor with the military, such as the late Süleyman Demirel and the late Turgut Özal.

People like ex-General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, Saddam Hussein or Bashar Assad would not survive long in Turkey.

The Turkish people have deep affection for people who serve it in earnest. That is why President Özal was treated to a massive people's funeral besides a state funeral when he passed away. That is why they are clinging to Erdoğan and re-electing him time after time. But of course there is always limit to the continued support of the Turkish masses. If you start failing to serve them properly they will simply bring you down in an election. This is also valid for Erdoğan.

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