Sunday, 7 August 2016

Turkey’s Failed Coup May Dismantle Turkish Democracy



As the fallout from Turkey’s failed coup d’état continues to unfold, it is clear that a significant portion of the judiciary and military were involved.  According to Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag, 6000 people have so far been detained over the failed coup, 265 people have died and 1,400 were wounded.

Of the 6000 detained, 2,700 were judiciary officials including ten members of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors and two members of the Constitutional Court, 3000 were military personnel, with 50 being senior military officials from the Denizli Garrison including the base Commander Major General Ozhan Ozbakir. 

Other top ranking personnel arrested included General Erdal Ozturk, commander of the Third Army, General Adem Huduti commander of the Second Army, Akin Ozturk the former Chief of the Air Staff and one of Turkey’s most senior judges Alparslan Altan.  

Coup d'état or Protecting Freedom

The individuals involved in Friday’s uprising were dissatisfied with the rule of President Recep Erdogan’s government. The military in Turkey have long considered themselves to be the protectors of the secular traditions established by the countries first President, Kemal Atatürk. 

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk is considered the founder of modern Turkey and his moves towards secularisation of Turkey’s state and society changed it into a modern society where education was state controlled, women were given equal civil and political rights and poverty was reduced.
President Erdogan’s commitment to Atatürk’s legacy and to democracy has often been questioned. Erdogan is a political Islamist who has divided the country with his rejection of Turkey’s secular history and his desire to exchange Turkey’s secular constitution for a more Islamic based authoritarian one with a strong emphasis on an executive Presidency and Islam. 

His political party, the Justice and Development Party or AKP, despite being popular, has also had a controversial few years. In 2014 the AKP announced a raft of plans to revise the role Islam has within Turkey’s state and society. There were announcements that religious education would now be extended to children as young as six and that there would be new policies implemented to allow children in grades four and above to take up to two years off from school to memorise the Koran.
Furthermore, all high school students would start to learn Ottoman Turkish, an Arabic and Persian based language developed and utilised by the more elite sections of society during the Ottoman Empire. This language has little in common with modern Turkish. 

Each of these measures and policies were met with significant opposition from adversaries. There have been numerous efforts to censure the party with accusations of corruption levelled against senior members in the past two years and the AKP being the subject of two closure cases in an effort to disband the political group. These attempts to moderate Erdogan and the AKP have achieved little.  

Empowering Erdogan

Each failed attempt to discredit Erdogan and the AKP has strengthened their appeal. Erdogan’s successful FaceTime mobilisation of the Turkish people clearly illustrates his popularity as a leader. His CNNTURK interview, during which he called for his supporters to go out onto the streets, was the turning point for the coup which faced significant civilian opposition. Erdogan supporters are reported to have made civilian arrests and assisted police in restoring order while repelling the military who were trying to seize major roads and infrastructure. One day on from the cessation of hostilities, Erdogan has continued his call for people to gather in public squares stating ‘This is not a 12 hour affair’. Answering this request, Erdogan supporters have come out in their thousands throughout Turkey to show their support for the President. 

Opposition Removed

Many believe that Erdogan’s swift response to the coup indicates that the arrests are more about decimating his political opponents. The move against such large numbers of judges and members of the bureaucracy indicates President Erdogan had previously drawn up a list of opponents and was utilising this opportunity to secure his position. As the European Union Commissioner overseeing Turkey application for membership Johannes Hahn stated

"It looks at least as if something has been prepared," 
 "The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage.
"I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared."