Erdoğan’s popularity remains intact across Arab world - Financial Times

Despite losing backing at home, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains, by far, the most popular leader in most of the Arab world, the Financial Times said on Tuesday, citing an Arab Barometer poll released last week.  

The established research network consistently reveals top marks for the Turkish president, it said, with the most recent poll of more than 20,000 people confirming this.

The Financial Times pointed to the irony of a Turkish leader who regularly “indulges in flights of neo-Ottoman fancy…  and has occupied four enclaves in northern Syria since 2016,’’ placing at the top of Arab world’s leader list.

But noted that despite the region’s past with the Ottoman Empire, Erdoğan’s Turkey is “widely better regarded than the Saudi and Iranian theocratic regimes.’’

The Arab world, which has become disempowered by autocratic rulers, maintains a weakness for populist heroes, the Financial Times said, pointing to the examples of late Egyptian leader Gamal Abdel Nasser and the fan base he amassed with his military campaigns and “pan-Arab nationalist mirage.’’

Under Erdoğan’s rule, Turkey over the past year has launched major offensives against Kurdish armed groups in Syria and Iraq, supplied hardware, fighters and know-how for a military confrontation with the United Arab Emirates-backed opposition in Libya and confronted Greece and Cyprus over territories in the eastern Mediterranean.

 Moreover, Erdoğan’s use of soft power, such his utilisation of soap operas with an Ottomanist rhetoric or reconverting the Hagia Sofia into a mosque are pernicious’’ and “sharpen the Sunni, ethnic Turkish and hard Islamic nationalist identity of the Erdoganist regime,’’ it said.

However, the risk with such an approach, according to the Financial Times, is that it “threatens to join the stream of poison that has disfigured a Middle East,’’ which is in dire need of escaping sectarian proxy and paramilitary conflict.

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