Turkey’s new presidential system and a changing west

Brookings Institution - 01-11

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In July 2018, having triumphed in the presidential elections the previous month, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan began to formally transform Turkey’s long-standing parliamentary system into a heavily centralized presidential one. The new system entrenched his one-man authoritarian rule at home and is having profound implications for the making and substance of Turkish foreign policy as well as Turkey’s relations with the West. This transition has taken place amid an international environment that is undergoing a significant transformation. Today, the West is far from a shining “city on the hill,” attracting Turkey and other countries toward the liberal values it is meant to represent. Populism and nationalism are on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic. President Donald Trump’s “America First” policies are eroding the world order characterized by multilateralism, free trade, and advocacy of liberal values. The European Union is weakened internally by the challenge of Brexit and by diminishing public support for a liberal Europe comfortable with diversity. Complicating this picture are emerging powers such as China, Iran, and Russia that are playing a much more assertive role on the global stage.