By Mansoor Ali Khan.
Military takeovers in countries like Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan has never been a surprise or an unexpected phenomenon. The colonial legacies and weak civilian structures enabled powerful military establishments to overthrow the democratically elected civilian governments in the name of National Interest and Security Threats. It is a common perception that Establishments set the national narrative, security doctrine and ideological perspective which the civilian governments has to follow.
In Turkey, there has been a long ongoing tussle among the secular military and civilian Islamists; however, the powerful military establishment remained successful in suppressing all uprisings against contemporary secular structure and Turkey’s constitution. Adnan Menders, Ex-Prime Minister was the first to fall prey to death when he was hanged by the military junta after a historic 1960 coup defeat, along with his two other cabinet members. Najam-ud-Din Arbakan (Necmettin Erbakan), another elected Prime Minister was pressurized to step down and later banned from Politics.
Tayyab Erdogan – Populism, Legacy, Authoritarianism and Corruption Allegations
Tayyan Erdogan, who is able to create a strong civilian structure, which however is more autocratic than democratic. He took bold decisions and tried to reduce the influence of high rank military officers who were regarded as the ‘Guardian of Secularism’ in Turkey. He tried to reintroduce the Islamic discourse and revive the lost glory of ‘Ottoman Empire’.Dr. Can Erintan, an independent scholar residing in Istanbul declared those attempts as ‘Projecting Ottomanitas’. Erdogan’s legacy made him immensely popular and created his huge ideological vote bank but in realm of those attempts Turkey has become highly polarized and badly divided.
Despite of all his populism, Tayyab Erdogan showed no leniency towards his opposition. He banned social media, arrested critical journalists/new editors and cracked down on Anti-government protesters many times. He enjoys support of 51% public, but equally hated by his opponents. Many times he has been alleged for supporting banned outfits and ISIS. He is also criticized for building a luxurious $615-million presidential palace which is 30 times bigger than White House. Just recently in Feb 2016, his one son Bilal Erdogan was alleged for corruption and money laundering in Italy.
Despite all these criticism, corruption allegations and authoritarianism, Erdogan’s economic policies showed a quick economic boom and from nowhere Turkish economy accelerated markedly during 2002-2007 when real GDP grew on average by 6.8% annually, more than double the average posted during the boom-bust decade of the 1990s. Turkey’s foreign exchange reserves reached $115bn and Lira started competing US dollar. Mega development projects were started and thousands of new jobs were created. From weakest to one of the most strong economy of the world, Turkey was able to achieve an economic miracle thorough Tayyab Erdogan.
Sledgehammer coup plan
There were more than one unsuccessful attempts to overthrow the populist regime of Tayyab Erdogan. One of those attempts was the sledgehammer coup plan or Operation Sledgehammer dating back to 2003. The plan was to stir up chaos and justify a military coup in Turkey. The army however claimed that the plans had been discussed but only as part of a scenario-based planning exercise at a military seminar, but ever conscious Tayyab Erdogan rejected those claims and initiated treason trials and in 2012 some 300 of the 365 suspects were sentenced to prison terms, while 34 suspects were acquitted.
Ergenekon trials were another series of high profile trials initiated to punish 275 people including military officers, journalists and opposition politicians who were accused of plotting against Erdogan government. All those culprits belonged to an ultra secularist clandestine organization ‘Ergenekon’
2016 – Attempted quo and failure
The consequences of military rules have been discussed a lot and it isn’t a debate here, but it is largely believed that military does not hesitate or face hurdles whenever it decides to seize power. However, the brave Turks have set a new precedent by making an attempted coup unsuccessful overnight, when hundreds of soldiers from Turk military attempted to seize the capital and take control of key areas and main buildings. The coup failed badly for so many reasons.
Turk military was divided and only a section of colonel rank officers initiated a poorly planned strategy to overthrow one of the most populist regimes in Turk history. They failed to stop Erdogan from making a charming appeal asking his millions of die hard supporters to come on roads. They also failed to arrest Prime Minister Yaldrim and other cabinet members. The coup planners had underestimated not only Erdogan’s support, but also the police force, the first line in the professional defense of the state. The planners also failed to identify the whereabouts of Tayyab Erdogan.
Most surprisingly, Turk opposition did not support the coup planners. All opposition and political parties overwhelmingly supported the elected government of Tayyab Erdogan. Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of Turkey’s main opposition party (CHP), opposed quo and used his speech to call for greater democracy in Turkey; however he criticized Erdogan by saying that the coup attempt had also shown the importance of freedom of speech. Turk journalist Alaattin Kilic summed it up by saying that Turkish people bravely opposed armed soldiers because they remember the price of military coups.
Despite of the fact that failed coup attempt has made Tayyab Erdogan even stronger and he is now confident enough to crush and avenge all his opponents including his past ally Fatehullah Gullen, it is also a great test of Tayyab Erdogan. Despite of a strong democratic set up, Turkey also needs stability and depolarization. Given the circumstances of Middle East, Civil Military imbalance and ideological rift would only make Turkey weak and its economic boom will turn into an economic mess. It is the right time for Tayyab Erdogan to initiate a dialogue to bring different segments of the society together and also resolve ongoing disputes with the neighboring countries. However, Turk people have proven that civilian supremacy is the only way forward and that the attempts of military coups can be overturned.
Writer is a Current Affairs Producer with a News Channel based in Islamabad. He can be reached at;