July 26, 2016 | Quoted by Pascale Trouillaud - The Times of Israel

How Erdogan’s mass appeal saved him on coup night

More than his security forces, what saved Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on the night of the coup attempt was the extraordinary devotion the charismatic strongman inspires among his followers.

In the tense hours when rebel troops attacked with fighter jets and tanks, and commandos were closing in on him, Erdogan called directly on the Turkish people to resist the mutineers.

Using the social media he previously despised, and sometimes blocked, he mobilized the citizens who confronted and stopped the plotters.

Erdogan’s improvised response to the coup attempt “helped him discover a new technology” to strengthen his rule, said Aykan Erdemir of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies in Washington.

“The Turkish president, who has been deeply suspicious of social media and new communication technologies, realized that these tools have more potential than simply being propaganda outlets,” he told AFP.

“Erdogan now enjoys direct access to his followers via SMS and can mobilize them,” without using his party as an intermediary, said Erdemir.

This allows Erdogan to “ignite the masses to take the action that he sees fit,” he said.

“However, he will not have the same capacity to slow things down once his followers get going. So what he has now is both a very potent and risky technique.”

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