President Vladimir Putin of Russia and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey are not the most popular leaders in the world today, but they are certainly popular with each other. Their mutual affinity is not just the result of personal chemistry, it also stems from a shared craving for unchecked power.
June 7, 2015, may prove to be the date when the destinies of these “electoral monarchs” diverged. Putin, of course, has established himself as the unchallenged master of the Kremlin, his success giving rise to an eponymous leadership style, Putinism. Erdoğan seemed to be on a similar trajectory as Putin – until the June 7 parliamentary election results dumped sand in the Turkish president’s gas tank.
Putin’s 15-year-long reign in Russia, Russian analyst Dmitry Trenin has noted, has led to the formation of the political system in which “his power is often likened to that of a monarch or a czar.” In Turkey, there had been a lot of talk prior to the election among the country’s pundits that Erdoğan was striving to emulate Putin: some analysts even started to use the term “Erdoğanism” to describe Erdoğan’s autocratic proclivities.
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Igor Torbakov is Senior Fellow at Uppsala University and at Södertörn University, Stockholm, Sweden.