Frud Bezhan, excerpts:
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has a near monopoly on power in his country, wielding robust control over the economy, the media, and the army.
Yet the authoritarian leader has blamed foreign “plots” and domestic saboteurs for the currency crisis and economic hardship plaguing the country.
Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Russian President Vladimir Putin have also blamed Western “plots,” fifth columnists, and “foreign agents” for the countries’ economic and political plights.
“A strongman particularly needs a scapegoat,” says Gareth Jenkins, an Istanbul-based political analyst. “Whether it’s another country, ethnicity, or religious minority, they’ve always had scapegoats to try to explain away the things that go wrong. It’s in their nature because the concentration of power is in their own hands.”
Khamenei, who has ruled Iran since 1989 and has the final say on all important state matters, has blamed foreign “enemies” for the country’s economic crisis, the fall of the national currency, the rial, and widespread antigovernment protests over poor economic conditions.
He has also particularly criticized Israel — the “Zionists” — and the “satanic” United States.
But economists say much of Iran’s economic woes are self-inflicted, even if U.S. sanctions have exacerbated the problems. The Iranian economy is heavily controlled by the state, is dependent on oil and gas, and burdened by price controls and subsides.
Russia’s own export-dependent economy fell into recession in 2014, when world oil prices collapsed and Western countries imposed sanctions on Moscow over its armed seizure of Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula and involvement in the war in eastern Ukraine.
But Putin has blamed the occasional tumbling of the ruble and economic stagnation in recent years on what the Kremlin has described as Western attempts to “contain and weaken Russia” — ignoring what many analysts describe as years of economic mismanagement and Moscow’s failure to reduce the country’s excessive dependency on oil and gas exports.
Authoritarian leaders have a monopoly on power, yet even they need scapegoats.
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Read more: Playing The Autocratic Blame Game