THE BLOG
09/30/2015 10:46 pm ET Updated Sep 29, 2016

Post-Erdogan

Though the Justice and Development Party (AKP) will win a plurality in Turkey's parliamentary ballot on November 1, the elections mark the beginning of the end for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turks are tired of autocracy. They are increasingly uncomfortable with Erdogan's efforts to undermine secular governance, erode the balance of powers, and marginalize Kurds in Turkey. Erdogan is a divisive figure who has polarized Turkish society and alienated Turkey from the West.

The electorate made clear its concerns on June 7 when the AKP received 40.9% of the vote, far short of the super-majority Erdogan wanted to change the constitution, in order to create an imperial presidency and consolidate his powers. Kurdish voters abandoned the AKP, voting for the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP). Erdogan promised a "democracy opening," giving more democratic and cultural rights to 20 million Turkish citizens of Kurdish origin, but never delivered. The HDP garnered 13% of the vote, overcoming Turkey's high barrier to enter the national parliament.

Infuriated with Kurds for voting against the AKP, Erdogan ordered the Turkish Armed Forces to attack the Kurdistan Worker's Party (PKK). Attacking the PKK was a cynical ploy by Erdogan to galvanize his nationalist base and regain popular support. It scuttled the 2013 cease-fire, and effectively ended the peace process.

Erdogan's war-mongering may succeed in scaring Turks, and generating some additional votes for the AKP. But the majority of Turks are disaffected.

In the long term, Erdogan is a loser. Journalists, academicians, lawyers, artists and civil society leaders are increasingly engaged in a broad, inclusive, discussion about restoring rights and democratic values in Turkey.

Kurds resent him for betraying their democratic aspirations, and his heavy-handed crackdown.

The military believes that Erdogan's war against the Kurds is a fool's errand. The families of deceased soldiers and police bereave the senseless deaths of loved ones.

The AKP boasted of its "zero problems with neighbors" policy. Yet Turkey is today in conflict with all its neighbors.

Secularists oppose Erdogan's support for jihadis in Syria and efforts to discredit Ataturk, who founded the Republic of Turkey, enshrining secular governance as the path to "peace at home and peace abroad."

Members of the AKP, including some founding members, wonder how their dignified movement was taken over by crass, corrupt cronies of Erdogan who enriched themselves at the nation's expense. Even Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu seems tired of being Erdogan's "yes man."

Progressives feel that Erdogan has distanced Turkey's goal of EU membership, undermining its credibility with Euro-Atlantic institutions.

The business community is also restless. Turkey's economic recovery, beginning in 2001, benefited from a moment of global liquidity. Its economic recovery was highly leveraged. However, Erdogan's highly public assaults on the Central Bank ultimately eroded confidence, causing a dramatic depreciation of the Turkish lira and contraction of the national economy.

The United States and EU Member States have been reluctant to publicly criticize Erdogan. In private, US officials express deep concern about attacks on independent media and repression of civil society. There is growing concern about Turkey's reliability as an ally.

Turkey was a valued member of NATO. However, NATO is more than a security alliance. It is a coalition of countries with shared values. If NATO were being established today, Turkey would not qualify as a member.

Erdogan's bravado was initially a source of pride for some Turks. However, Erdogan was corrupted by power. Bravado became hubris. Assertiveness turned into aggression.

Erdogan and his family are allegedly involved in corrupt and criminal activity. Exposing Erdogan's corruption would discredit him personally, and allow a new generation of political leaders to emerge.

Turks are a noble, kind, and charitable people. Erdogan is not Turkey. Turkey can regain the pride of all Turks and restore its reputation as a reliable partner of the United States - after Erdogan.

Mr. Phillips is Director of the Program on Peace-building and Rights at Columbia University's Institute for the Study of Human Rights. He served as a senior adviser and foreign affairs expert at the State Department. His recent book is The Kurdish Spring: A New Map of the Middle East.