Saturday 22 July 2017

Erdogan winning cabinet's support by a whisker

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Reuters
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Reuters

Suzan Fraxer

The prime minister has one. So does the culture minister. Even the previously clean-shaven ministers of economy and foreign affairs recently began sporting theirs.

Neatly-trimmed moustaches, similar to that worn by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have become increasingly popular among government ministers from his Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party, or AKP, ahead of a crucial referendum on Sunday on expanding the president's powers.

Some analysts say that's no fluke in a country where facial hair has a history of political significance, and where ministers' loyalty to Mr Erdogan is being closely scrutinised following a failed coup attempt last year.

Historically, men in Turkey have worn moustaches not only to assert their manhood but express their political leanings. Traditionally, nationalists wear their moustaches long and downward-pointing - like the crescent moon on the Turkish flag - while leftists tend to grow theirs bushy and Stalin-esque.

Mr Erdogan wears a bristly and tidily-trimmed moustache that is popular among conservative and religious Turks. Some religious men also grow beards.

A year ago, more than half of the Cabinet members were clean-shaven.

Now, only three of Turkey's 27 ministers - including the only woman - don't have facial hair.

On Sunday, Turks will vote 'yes' or 'no' to constitutional amendments that would abolish the office of the prime minister and transfer executive powers to the president, something Mr Erdogan's critics fear would cement his powers and further mould Turkey according to his conservative and pro-Islamic views.

Opinion polls suggest he could win by a whisker.

Irish Independent

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