The ‘inventor of 21st century populism’ moved Turkey away from EU to appeal to the base

It was a speech that would change the trajectory of Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s life – and with it, Turkey’s future.

Istanbul’s first Islamist mayor had travelled to the poor, south-eastern town of Siirt in 1997 to speak at a rally. Dressed in his trademark working man’s jacket, Erdoğan recited an Islamic-nationalist poem, deploying a rhetorical style he had practised as a teenager, addressing imaginary audiences on the decks of abandoned ships on the Bosphorus.

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