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The Erdoğan Government's Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic: Performance and Actuality in an Authoritarian Context

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  26 May 2022

Melis G. Laebens
Affiliation:
Department of Politics and International Relations & Nuffield College, University of Oxford, Oxford, UK
Aykut Öztürk*
Affiliation:
School of Social and Political Sciences, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
*
*Corresponding author. Email: aykut.ozturk@glasgow.ac.uk

Abstract

This article analyses the Erdoğan government's policy response to the coronavirus pandemic. Despite the abundant use of moral antagonisms in his discourse, Erdoğan did not attempt to politicize the pandemic, instead framing it as a global health crisis and presenting the government's public health policies as expert-driven and competent. However, this expert-driven approach was largely a performance. Without a system of democratic oversight or a free media to scrutinize government policies, the Erdoğan government could systematically undercount COVID-19 cases and disregard its own public health restrictions, all the while spreading its narrative of competence and success. Competitive policymaking by opposition-controlled municipalities and criticism from a strong doctors' association had relatively limited ability to discredit the government. The public opinion data we present reveal broad-based support for the government's COVID policies. Our article highlights how authoritarian institutions allow governments to sustain a gap between performance and actuality, granting their leaders greater possibilities to claim policy success.

Type
Article
Copyright
Copyright © The Author(s), 2022. Published by Cambridge University Press on behalf of Government and Opposition Limited

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