Authoritarian Populism and the Discourse of “the People” in the Turkish Islamist Media: The Case of Yeni Şafak

Yesim Kaptan


The expression “the people” became an epicenter of media debates during Turkey’s June 2018 national elections and its transition from parliamentary to presidential governance. Through qualitative and semiotic analysis of primary sources (newspaper stories, op-eds, columns, and editorials), this study investigates political rhetoric and the concept of “the people” in Turkish Islamist print media, particularly the progovernment Turkish daily Yeni Şafak. This article brings to light how a contested meaning of the concept “the people” was featured in the daily in the midst of rival, polarizing populist discourses during the 2018 national elections in Turkey. The analysis reveals that Yeni Şafak articulated views representing populism and the ethos of political Islam in the media ideology—an ambiguous and equivocal systemic worldview of media institutions grounded in a greater system of beliefs and processes naturalized as social reality. As a result, Yeni Şafak created unyielding divides in the society and served the production, dissemination, and mobilization of the populist discourse of the ruling party constellated around the politics of the definition of “the people.”


populism, the people, Islamic media, media discourse, Yeni Şafak, Turkey, political rhetoric

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