The Turkish leader wants to drive out the educated and business classes that fervidly oppose him, the same way Putin pushed out educated and wealthy citizens in Russia. Over the last 18 years, Putin has stripped the Russian opposition of its leaders, forcing many of Russia’s thinkers and civil society organizers into self-imposed exile overseas. Erdogan believes driving out the leaders of Turkey’s civil society will pave the way for Putin-style landslide electoral victories against a hollowed and rudderless mass.
Among its population of 80 million, Turkey has a large number of well-educated types and liberal urban professionals. They often speak multiple foreign languages, have advanced degrees from world-renowned universities, and connections to civil society institutions in the West. Erdogan knows that an opposition led by powerful elites poses a permanent threat to him. If he can force this group to give up on Turkey, it does not matter how many people are left to oppose him. Without their guiding elites, the opposition groups will have no choice but to accept his regime—as Russian masses have done under Putin.