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    Topics - Defence Matters ENG - News

    Turkey Coup attempt: What now?

    Andrej Matisak

    Turkey has a history of military coups and this coup was totally uvexpected, or was it? What lead to the failed military coup in Turkey and what's next for Turkish President Recep Tayip Erdogan?

    We asked a couple of experts and this is what they told us:

    James Ker-Lindsay, Senior Research Fellow on the Politics of South East Europe, London School of Economics and Political Science

    I was utterly astounded by the news of the coup attempt. When reports first emerged last night, I naturally assumed that it must be something related to terrorism. It seemed to be beyond the realms of possibility that it would be a full scale military uprising. Of course, 15 years ago that would have been the first thing to go through my mind.

    This points to one of the most profound transformations that has taken place in Turkish politics over the past decade and a half: the apparent downgrading of the role of the armed forces. There have been a number of reasons for this, but it essentially comes down to the fact that the Erdogan has managed to bring the armed forces under complete civilian control - or so we had thought.

    At this stage, it is not clear who is behind this. On the one hand, it could have been organised by the followers of an Islamic religious organisation (the Gülen Movement) that used to have close relations to Erdogan, but fell out with him a few years ago. Many believe that this is the most likely group, especially as it has strong networks in many parts of Turkish society, including the security services. Such claims have already been strenuously denied by Fethullah Gülen himself. Nevertheless, this is where many are already pointing the finger of blame.

    The other view is that this could have been organised by those still loyal to the secular Turkish state established by Ataturk, the Kemalists. The problem with this theory is that the Kemalists have been severely depleted in recent years. At one time, anyone suspected of religious sympathies would have been purged from the armed forces. No longer. This means there are a lot of junior officers loyal to Erdogan and the AKP. Meanwhile, many senior officers have been put on trial for attempting to overthrow the government. At the same time, many other generals saw the writing on the wall and have taken early retirement. This means few believed that the Kemalists could arrange a coup any longer. On the other hand, one could argue that this lends some credibility to the reports that it was undertaken at the colonel level. However, even if true, it would really be a last gasp effort by the Kemalists.

    It will be fascinating to discover who was behind this, and how they managed to organise what was by all accounts a very serious coup attempt.

    Like many others, I am deeply apprehensive about what this will mean for Turkey. Over the last few years, the country has moved in an increasingly authoritarian, if not dictatorial, direction under President Erdogan. There have been many attempts to restrict civil and human rights, and curb civil society and the independence of the media. I think that these trends will now accelerate. Already, Erdogan has said that this coup attempt is a "gift from God" that will allow his government to "cleanse the military". This could see a real attempt to crack down on all last remaining vestiges of opposition to his rule, not just in the armed forces but more generally. The regime is likely to become even more inward looking, suspicious and repressive.

    David Romano, Associate Professor, Missouri State University

    It was a surprise, but not unprecedented. In 1960, the first time Turkey had a military coup, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes was very popular with about half the population in Turkey - roughly the same half that currently votes AKP (religious, conservative Turks from the less Westernized parts of the country). He was of course removed from power by the military in 1960 and executed, along with two of his ministers. So this was high stakes in Turkey.

    If Erdogan stays true to form, he will use the coup attempt to try and further consolidate power, push through constitutional changes to create a presidential system, and further erode civil liberties and democratic checks and balances. He was always paranoid, but as they say, paranoids also have enemies.

    • Published: 22.07.2016 16:34
    • LETA
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