The Danger of Some Leaders

We Should Listen to the Master Yoda: Hate Leads to Suffering

The construction of “enemy image” is the most salient component within the political scene. Political actors or citizens employ their own perceptions within the politics in order to emphasize the division of “us and them” in particular sentiments. Strong and competent leaders (mostly presidents) respond to these grievances if they are capable and willing to change the established order. Political actors do need to change, but promises are touchstone of their discursive strategy. Thus, perceived powerful executives claim themselves as different through their skills to effectively involve in decision-making process. The presidential system is prone to improve the sense and salience of the expression of the “national will” that brings superiority over the rivals and opposition. Existence of the single executive is seen as a protector or a guardian role claiming the support of “national will”. This situation causes to consider presidential system as strong and notable. Decisive and quicker political implementations make presidential systems as acceptable since stability is a requirement during a chaos or crisis period. Under tension, appealing to lost and wanted expressions gain new identifications by political leaders.

On the other hand, the question remains on the agenda that whether stability and peaceful harmony will be occurred under a single power.  To overcome the subsistence of issues, people may prefer to vote for these attractive promises. But, is this real? Imagining a strong leader as a president will not bring our dreams when we calculate our lives after this leader. Therefore, supporters of the leader should be concerned about the future after him and non-supporters should be thought that their voices will be ended during his/her tenure. Currently, (authoritarian) populist leaders instrumentalize the high number of vote shares or direct popular voting. These leaders tend to illustrate their strong position as a voice of the people that demonstrates their invincible appearance in front of the Others. The support of the majority is seen much more valuable instead of human rights[1] or constitutional liberties. The popular vote provides a legitimacy to speak and behave on behalf of the people. This is the main commonality between presidents and populist leaders.

Authoritarian actors appeal to nationalism, nativism, otherization, sexism and racism; when we examine Turkey’s new populist actor and the party (The Justice and Development Party), we can observe the redefinition of the people which is emerging as a homogeneous group in Turkey. New discourses comprehend antagonism, equivalence, difference. These features embedded in the discourses of JDP are based on creating enemy images all of which are triggering separated and conflictual society. The ruling party has already acquired crucial authorities in order to direct the Turkish political life; the Presidential system – not an exact presidential type – may present inexorable and unchangeable decisions. The ruling party has already obtained a high level of dominance through authorities inducing arbitrary decisions over particular groups’ lives. Thus, portraying “a leader“ as the potential president is not encouraging for solving frozen issues and it is not a good move for the competitors since Turkey is going through a continual chaos.

Turkey’s political discourse contains an incoherent and different justifications in general that states “this has been implemented in the European countries or the United States, they have the same thing” to impose values of various political decisions or regimes (state emergency or presidential system). On the other hand, Turkey has never applied similar policies along with the same definitions and concepts. The measures of state emergency policies are completely different with France, also the presidential system is another failure to use the same definition with the US; first and foremost, the US has a separation that consists of “separating” the executive from parliamentary support, whereas power sharing means that the executive stands on the support of parliament. Turkish type of presidentialism does not consider the separation of power between president and parliament.

Juan Linz defends the miracles of the parliamentary systems while his arguments were focusing on legitimacy of the cabinet and parliament.[2] Since the both derive their power from the votes of the people in a free competition among well-defined alternatives, a conflict is always possible and at times may be erupted dramatically.  Contrary to the parliamentary system, presidential system is more problematic due to the rule of “winner-take-all” formula which improves zero-sum game and potentiality of a conflict among different groups. However, parliamentary elections tend to produce more widespread representation to a number of parties and incumbents become more attentive to demands of others. In an adversary democracy with its sharp divide between winners and losers, government and opposition damage the voice of everyone. Presidents prompt a homogeneous “national will” that indicates society as us and them. In this sense, pluralist understanding of democracy can be violated by rejecting the existence of opposition and restricting their voice to set the political agenda. Basically, presidential system is much more dangerous within a heterogeneous society; also it’s becoming as more undefeated danger under the rule of demagogic leaders.

If we consider Erdogan as a populist leader – with no doubt – the clarification on antagonistic division of society will exhibit new targets for the government. Established order, previous governments, and the opposition will become threatful and harmful against the “national will”. For a long time, Turkish citizens used to hear who the enemies of their country are. Further to this routine, the government has tried to convince supporters by punishing particular groups as evidence in the dismission of these particular groups from social and political spheres. The political scene has already indicated a distance among different groups since the discourse of JDP fuels hostility. The Turkish Type of Presidentialism offers concurrent elections that prevent change of the assembly and opportunity in terms of the access to the power for other voices of the society. During a conflictual or highly-charged period, members of the assembly cannot be changed.[3] Is Turkey ready to sustain a regime with one voice excluding the others? The proposed authorities of the president give a way for an authoritarian implementation since the leaders can legitimize popular vote. Redefinition of homogeneous “people” in populist discourse will find new authorities to practice itself in an authoritarian manner in which the executive is controlled and the position/power of the legislature is melted. The content and appointment of the members for the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors maintain partialism that depends on the “one’s” voice; but not everyone’s.[4]

Turkey does not have a consolidated democracy which is already discussed and approved with respect to imprecise democratic policies in the decision-making mechanisms. The number and danger of the  imprisoned journalists, issued academicians, threatened human rights activists, restricted and jailed members/leaders of political parties are unceasingly rising in Turkey. Voices of the differences and their participation have been limited in the name of so-called unity and stability. On the other hand, the desire of stability became a willingness of authoritarian way of life. It can be argued that “man in the street” can be evolved within a populist speaking; especially “oppressed people” finds a place or voice for channelling their demands. This is not only Turkey’s issue, Norris and Inglehart have presented their research in relation to rising populism, explaining the success of Trump  by associating it with “cultural backlash”. “Trump’s rhetoric peddles a mélange of xenophobic fear tactics (against Mexicans and Muslims), deep-seated misogyny, paranoid conspiracy theories about his rivals, and isolationist ‘America First’ policies abroad. His populism is rooted in claims that he is an outsider to D.C. politics, a self-made billionaire leading an insurgency movement on behalf of ordinary Americans disgusted with the corrupt establishment, incompetent politicians, dishonest Wall Street speculators, arrogant intellectuals, and politically correct liberals“.[5] For Norris and Inglehart, American voters (“white men”) felt lost in terms of their cultural values while liberal and cosmopolitan values became more apparent emphasizing rising of Greens. Trump and other leaders could appeal to their sensitive attachments. Erdogan could use the language of ordinary and everyday life and instrumentalized to make innocent his authoritarian way. It seems that Turkey has experienced a tragic year without stability; but a powerful and demagogic leader makes Turkey worse with new authorities.

Therefore, authoritarian way always chooses particular groups which share commonalities over others who do not share. Turkey’s political tradition has a tendency to establish enemies of the people and it is open to construct assumptions about how the majority is conceptualized and evaluated. Although Turkey’s political scene had a “silent majority”; the whole political decisions were implemented for the majority. In other words, differences, minorities, members of LGBT have been ignored whereas these groups were demanding a sphere in which they can voice their demands. That’s not happened; Turkey needs to consider deficiencies on its democracy; not making more authoritarianism in a single hand. Let’s remember the master Yoda: “when you look at the dark side, careful you must be… for the dark side looks back”.

Tuğçe Erçetin

Image source:


[1] Cas Mudde.   Populist Radical Right Parties in Europe, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007.

[2] Juan Linz, “The Perils of Presidentialism”, Journal of Democracy, 1(1), (1990), p.51-69.

[3] For more details:,380075

[4] For more details:

[5] Ronald Inglehart and Pippa Norris, “Trump, Brexit and the rise of Populism: Economic Have-nots and Cultural Backlash”, HKS FacultyResearch Working Paper Series.


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