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Turkey’s Erdogan: Democracy’s Savior or Saboteur? - The New York Times

Posted: Sat-May-2017

That is the fundamental question Turkish voters will decide in Sunday’s vote on whether to expand the powers of the presidency.

A billboard in Malatya, Turkey, featuring the nation’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for the “Evet” (Yes) campaign to expand the constitutional powers of the president. Turkey will vote in a referendum on Sunday. Credit Chris McGrath/Getty Images

ANKARA, Turkey — The political career of Yasar Yakis, a former foreign minister of Turkey, offers a telling look at the trajectory of the country’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Fifteen years ago, Mr. Yakis was a founding member of Mr. Erdogan’s political group, the Justice and Development Party, or A.K.P. for short. Mr. Yakis was a career diplomat and stalwart of the secular Turkish bureaucracy, and his appointment as foreign minister in 2002 embodied the party’s attempts to appeal beyond its conservative, Islamist base.

But less than four months later, Mr. Yakis lost his cabinet post. In the years since, he has been increasingly at odds with Mr. Erdogan, as the leader’s policies grew increasingly authoritarian.

Mr. Erdogan, Mr. Yakis remarked, once compared democracy with a tram: You can leave it once you reach your stop. Today, Mr. Yakis said, Mr. Erdogan “is not any longer on the tram.”

On Sunday, Turkish voters will decide whether to vastly expand the powers of the president, who has overseen the firing of about 130,000 people and the arrest of about 45,000 after a failed coup last year.

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