In “Game of Thrones”, HBO’s global blockbuster television series, anyone who sees himself/herself as a king/queen adopts a long, laudatory title. For example, Daenerys of House Targaryen is the: First of Her Name, Queen of Meereen, Queen of the Andals, the Rhoynar and the First Men, Lady Regnant of the Seven Kingdoms, Protector of the Realm, Khaleesi of the Great Grass Sea, Breaker of Chains, and Mother of Dragons.
If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan were on the show, how would he have himself be addressed? Which of his many admirable qualities would he highlight?
There are of course obvious candidates: Chief, as his henchmen like to call him; Father of Turks; Protector of Muslims; Swordbearer of Allah; Saviour of the Oppressed; Crusader against Zionism; Tallest of Men (exaggerations allowed); Conjoiner of Lines (literally speaking); Master; and as he underlined in a recent speech, Washer of the Dead.
I went over hundreds of his speeches to choose a few more.
One of the pillars of Erdogan’s foreign policy has been the well-known saying of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk (the genuine ‘Father of Turks’), “peace at home and in the world”, so Bringer of Peace seems like an appropriate title. All of Turkey’s neighbours are in turmoil, but he cannot be blamed for that, can he? His Justice & Development Party’s (AKP) support has risen after episodes of domestic political violence, leading some to claim that he is warmongering for political power, but correlation is not causation. Besides, even though parts of southeastern Turkey look like a war zone, and bombs have exploded in Istanbul and Ankara, he has defeated the terrorists, hasn’t he? After all, you have to break a few eggs to make an omelette, as another strong leader, who was called “Steel”, once said.
In addition, the self-styled “Gentle-Man” has also been an Advancer of Democracy, turning his country into an advanced democracy. Thanks to him, we Turks do not have to worry about the world’s “new dictators” who are clinging to power, as explained in a recent paper, by holding mock elections, using state television stations for propaganda and suppressing the press.
Turning to economics, one of the AKP’s key economic priorities has been reducing poverty and inequality. Unfortunately, after some early success, neither has gone down by much in the last few years, and one-third of Turkey’s children suffer from severe material deprivation, according to a recent research note by Istanbul think-tank Betam. But Erdogan still deserves to be called Benefactor of the Needy for the effort – and all the coal and food he has distributed through state channels, as well as foundations like the ill-famed Ensar, to increase his party’s votes.
It is impossible to write about Erdogan without mentioning his contribution to Turkey’s infrastructure and support of the construction sector. He is Builder of Divided Roads, Creator of Crazy Projects, Unifier of Plateaus, Gentrifier of Cities and First Builder. This road building, paralleled (no pun intended) only by the Nazis’ highway craze, has caused severe environmental damage in some areas such as the northeast. Moreover, his “crazy projects” in many cases have not proved financially viable, resulting in significant contingent liabilities, which may worsen Turkey’s relatively strong public finances down the road.
But these are minor details. After all, Istanbul’s Ataturk Airport looks so modern compared to São Paulo’s Guarulhos. Some might argue that it is better to build airplanes, as Brazil has been doing with Embraer, than airports, but despite small hiccups Turkey is intent on building its own airplane as well. And as former economy minister Zafer Caglayan, who had to resign following the corruption scandal at the end of 2013, noted, if it weren’t for those pesky Gezi protesters serving the “global interest rate lobby”, Turkey could have built a spaceship.
Speaking of that, Erdogan would definitely want everyone to know that he is Defier of Lobbies. He has been vehemently defending Turkey against the mysterious, bloodthirsty interest rate lobby – a coalition of Jewish financiers and foreign journalists supported by global powers and even low rates beget low inflation – contrary to what the economics profession believes. But still, that should not prevent Erdogan from being called Inflation Slayer. And now that he has put his own guy at the top of the central bank, he is sure to earn that title soon anyway.
A charismatic and popular leader, this Gentle-Man has not felt the need to meddle in the elections a lot. But when the need has risen, he has shown that he can gerrymander better than the Singaporeans, even making use of felines during the 2014 local elections. He can occasionally get caught out by clever economists poring over electoral statistics, but he can taken over by trustees. He is therefore Lord of Gerrymandering, Trainer of Cats and Hammer of the Press.
The Presidential Palace, built illegally inside a protected nature preserve, is the most expensive palace built in the last 100 years – more expensive than the Brunei Sultan’s palace or even Adolf Hitler’s Reich Chancellery. After witnessing foreigners fall awestruck upon seeing the Presidential Palace for the first time, I believe each of the 137bn “kurus” (1/100th of a lira) has been well spent, and Erdogan deserves to be called Erector of Grand Palaces.
Of course, like any ‘Supreme Leader’, there are global powers who want Erdogan out. There have been several assassination attempts against him and his family. As his chief economy adviser Yigit Bulut stated on live TV back in 2013, there is work being undertaken in “many quarters” to kill Erdogan by telekinesis and other means. None has succeeded so far, and he is very healthy despite rumours that he has a terminal illness. Therefore, he deserves to be called Defier of Death.
With all these titles, Erdogan would be one hell of a “Game of Thrones” character, more impressive than even Daenerys Targaryen, or to compare to someone with more character likeness, Tywin Lannister. I hope he sees this column and grants me the Presidential Economy Adviser job I’ve been coveting for a long time. Or maybe he won’t like what he reads, and I will be one of the more than 2,000 people, including at least a couple of foreigners, he has arrested or sued for insulting him since becoming president.