Coup in Turkey

Mansoor Akbar Kundi

THE outputs of the abortive military coup on morning of 16th July in Turkey are twofold. On the one hand, it appears an overall victory for democracy where people loyal to the democratic forces and progress made by the AK Party under the charismatic leadership of RecepTayyib Erdogan since 2002. On the other hand, it is not a good omen for the leadership of the party which has been blamed by secular forces, particularly army for violating the rudimentary principles of Kemalism the modern Turkey is based on after it was raised to a republic in 1924 by Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey.
Erdogan made his debut in politics after he was elected as the Mayor of Istanbul in 1994 on Rafah Party platform. The Rafah Party was considered a moderate Islamic group which enjoyed wider support from the Islamic minded people in Turkey. The Rafah Party was founded by Necibudin Erbakan, who as the Prime Minister of Turkey was edged out of power by the army.
Erdogan’s mayorship was marked by considerable development and progress, but he was blamed for his Islamic tilted attitude for which was lamely accused when he narrated a verse by a Turk national poet: ZiyaGokalp (1876-1924) (The mosques are our barracks, the domes our helmets, the minarets our bayonets and the faithful our soldiers). He was banned from politics and sentenced to 10 months in jail. He partially served the sentence.
Though banned from politics but the establishment, particularly the army and its led National Security Council (NSC) brought him back. His return was the result of mutual deal between him and establishment. He founded the new party AK (Justice) Party with likeminded moderates as well as hard liners. The AK Party since 2002 in power has done remarkably well.
However, the relations between Erdogan government and armed forces were not consolidated and differences between them were grown over years. Defence forces in Turkey play an important role with army being more influential. The forces have a constitutional role in politics.
According to the article 134 of the Constitution the National Security Council (NSC) or MilliGüvenlikKurulu) MGK) is divided between civilian and military command.
The National Security Council can give its recommendations for the removal of a government once the existence, independence, integrity and indivisibility of the state.
Erdogan from very beginning of his rule had been vocal against military role in the politics of republic. He in number of his speeches after becoming Prime Minister condemned the role of authoritarian forces for disrupting the elected governments in past, particularly of Necibden Erbakan in 1997.

Erdogan inherited its popularity and Islamic oriented political trends from Erbakan. The AK Party government’s initiation of the trial of 17 high ranking army officers including of Gen. Kenan Evren, the ex chief of army staff and President of the Republic symbolized the party’s civilian dominance over military. They all were sentenced to life imprisonment for interfering in politics in 1980 and displacing the civilian government.

Politically/ideologically, the Turkish population can broadly be divided into three sections. The one who are secular; the one moderates and can tilt anyway; and those who are Islamic minded (not necessarily fundamentalists). Erodogan and his followers in large belong to the third category.
One thing common amongst them are nationalist trends they adhere to in day to day behaviour. Military training is mandatory for every male above the age of 18 to be completed before 28. It is one year in case of graduate and two year in case of non-graduate. No one is exempted except those handicap or joining defence forces as profession. It is rigorous and provides them essential knowledge of warfare.
The Turkish defence forces are built on secular lines. Secularism is regarded as one of the leading principles of Kemalism the modern Turkey was based on. It was propounded by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in his manifesto published on 20 April 1931.
The principles of secularism have been incorporated in the Constitutions of 1924, 1961 and 1982. They are defended in all the three constitutions, presidential decrees and state orders. The promotion and protection of secularism in Turkey is deemed essential to the survival of Kemalism the modern Turkey is based on. The secularity of Turkey was protected by two military coups in 1960 and 1980, banning of a number of political parties/groups and their leaders, including the sacking of a civilian government of Erbakan in 1997.
The abortive military coup or mutiny by a selective officers can largely be analyzed in the background of AK Party under Erdogan where on the one hand it is symbolizing the civilian dominance over military with Islamic moderate trends, while on the other enhancing the powers of President almost as a constitutional Sultan. A number of steps and decisions he adopted in person were designed to assume his role as a most powerful ruler.
The AK Party believes in the replacement of the 1980 Constitution the country political system is based on. The defence forces which is still built and adhered on secular lines takes AK Party’s initiatives as contrary to their interests as well as modern Turkey built on Kemalist principles.
—The writer is Professor of Political Science in IIUI

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