Erdogan's sultan-like understanding of his democratic mandate. The prime minister sees his election -- especially the one in 2011, when the AKP won half the popular vote -- as a carte blanche to do as pleases until the next vote. He indulges his personal emotions (recall his 2009 confrontation with Shimon Peres), meddles in the tiniest matters (his mandate on the use of a city park prompted the current turmoil), acts like a social engineer (telling married couples to bear three or more children), involves Turkey in an unpopular foreign adventure (Syria), and demonizes the half of the electorate that did not vote for him (calling them beer-guzzlers who copulate in a mosque). This attitude has won the fervent support of his once-downtrodden constituency but has also brought the fury of growing numbers of Turks who resent his authoritarianism as well as the criticism of Europe leaders. German Chancellor Angela Merkel pronounced herself "appalled" by the recent police crackdown.
These two weaknesses point to the economy for the future of Erdogan, the AKP, and the country. Should Turkey's finances weather the demonstrations, the Islamist program at the heart of the AKP's platform will continue its advance, if more cautiously. Perhaps Erdogan himself will remain leader, even as the country's president with newly enhanced powers next year, or perhaps his party will tire of him and -- as happened to Margaret Thatcher in 1990 -- push him aside in favor of someone who can carry out the same program without provoking so much hostility.
But if "hot money" flees Turkey, if foreign investors go elsewhere, and if Persian Gulf patrons cool on the AKP, then the demonstrations could end AKP rule and rupture the drive toward Islamism and the application of Islamic law. Infighting within the party, especially between Erdogan and President Abdullah Gül, or within the Islamist movement, especially between the AKP and Fethullah Gülen's powerful movement, could weaken the Islamists. More profoundly, the many non-Islamist voters who voted for the AKP's sound economic stewardship might abandon the party.
Payroll employment is down by 5 percent. Real consumer spending in first quarter of 2013 fell by 2 percent from 2012. Since the demonstrations started, the Istanbul stock market is down 10 percent, and interest rates are up about 50 percent. To assess the future of Islamism in Turkey, watch these and other economic indicators.
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