Apr. 03, 2024 |

Same as the old boss. Surprisingly, Turkey’s political opposition defeated the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in nearly all the country’s major cities in local elections on March 31. Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) won 35.5 percent of the vote nationwide—its worst performance in 20 years—while the Republican Party won 37.8 percent and now controls Turkey’s five largest cities. Turkish voters appeared to be punishing Erdoğan’s party for the country’s economic troubles after the official inflation rate hit nearly 70 percent in February.

In December 2021, Steven Levitsky explored the weakening position of authoritarian populists worldwide—including Erdoğan and Brazil’s then-president Jair Bolsonaro, who went on to lose his bid for reelection in 2022. To Levitsky, economic mismanagement and poor handling of the pandemic had been eroding the standing of many populist authoritarians. Meanwhile, as he sees it, “thermostatic” political change—citizens wanting to toss rulers out after too many years in office—is always inevitable. But as popular frustration with establishment elites remains strong globally, there’s still nothing to diminish the allure among politicians around the world of tapping populist anger to gain or hold power.