Majoritarianism: The political trend that’s more important than populism

This underscores another significant point: Erdogan’s Islamism, like Modi’s Hinduism, is simply a cloak for his nationalism. “As revolutionary as President Erdogan’s leadership has been, a large part of his success has derived from framing his reforms around shared basic assumptions about the nature of Turkish identity,” wrote Howard Eissenstat, a professor of Middle East history at St. Lawrence University, in commentary accompanying the study. “His invocation of religion is done in a new tone and with new accents, but it plays upon long-standing Turkish nationalist rhythms.”

The net result is a dangerous undermining of democratic norms. “Majoritarianism insists on different tiers of citizenship. Members of the majority faith and culture are viewed as the nation’s true citizens,” wrote Indian historian Mukul Kesavan. “The rest are courtesy citizens, guests of the majority, expected to behave well and deferentially. To be tolerated at the majority’s discretion is no substitute for full citizenship in modern democracies.” (The CAP study, too, found that an overwhelming proportion of Turks were angry about the presence of Syrian refugees in their country, while other ethnic minorities are getting more and more worried by the nationalist climate.)