On the night on 15 July, Turkey witnessed a take-over of some critical points in two major cities by soldiers. The plotters took over the headquarters of the Turkish Armed Forces General Staff and the Gendarmerie General Command, an air base and Istanbul Atatürk Airport. The Chief Commanders of the armed forces were detained. Fighter Jets were flying low over cities and later, joined by helicopters, bombed certain targets including TBMM (Turkish Parliament Building), the vicinity of the headquarters of the General Staff and Special Forces Command.
Without enough preparation and power, the plotters, perhaps forced to act by the circumstances and possibly abandoned by sections of the armed forces that pledged support, arrived at a dead end within a matter of hours.
Firstly, they could not win over the people and its organized section. The coup was supported by no organized body such as a political party or a trade union. The four political parties in the Parliament issued a joint statement against the attempted coup.
On the other hand, the plotters could not get the main troops within the Armed Forces on their side. They were confronted by the police and the Special Forces, controlled directly by the government and numbered in their hundreds of thousands. Political Islamist militants, with jihadists among them, showed their level of organization in confronting them hand in hand with the police. They responded to the calls to “take to the streets” by the President, whom the plotters failed to capture. Increasing numbers of AKP supporters and people from those sections of the population that insisted on democracy also filled the streets in defiance of the coup.
In a country that has seen almost ten coups, the only successful ones of which were those backed by the US; the plotters could not secure the support of the US, despite the latter’s ambiguous initial stance.
And they were unsuccessful.
However, it cannot be disputed that the line of domestic and foreign policy pursued by the incumbent AKP government and President Erdoğan – who is creating a de facto “one-manship” – dragged Turkey to this circumstance of a coup.
In fact, during the 2010 Constitutional Referendum, the primary claim of the AKP and Erdoğan was that they were “settling the score with the Constitution of the coup” of 1980 and that “there will be no more coups in Turkey”! This has not happened; not only did “settling the score with the constitution of the coup” never took place, on the contrary, all measures taken since have been taken in order to destroy the already weak institutions and freedoms of the country.
Soon after his election as the president, Erdoğan claimed “a de facto regime change” and stated that the parliamentarian system is “put on hold” and took steps in this direction.
Executive power was strengthened by the “Internal Security Act”, giving exceptional powers to the police and district and provincial governors. In the war waged in Kurdish cities, armed forces are protected by granting of immunity; soldiers cannot be tried without consent from the Prime Minister.
Legislation has been subordinated to executive power. With the aggrandizement of “National Will”; despite the focus only on the “ballot” rather than democratic rights and freedoms; and finally the removal of the immunity of MPs; this has been advanced to a point of getting rid of unwanted parliamentarians. To prove that “National Will” means the “decision of one-man”, people’s “will” demonstrated in the elections held on 7 June 2015 saying “No” to “one-man dictatorship” have been rejected. Through instigation of the Kurdish war – fueling chauvinist nationalism – the country was dragged into war and chaos and forced into elections on the 1st of November.
Legislation has been subordinated to executive power: through “special courts”; alleged “coup plotters” with differing identities; through the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors, made up mostly of appointed members. A third of the judges and prosecutors have been relocated. Before the attempted coup it was stated that except for the President of the Supreme Court and the Chief of Justice of the Council of State, all coup – despite the fact that no prosecutor or court having any jurisdiction – was followed by the decisions members of the two institutions will be appointed by the executive power. They attempted to dismiss and take into custody two members of the Supreme Court, 140 members of the Supreme Court and 48 members of the Council of State, and 2745 judges.
Freedom of the press has been almost entirely removed. Freedom of speech, and especially freedom of thought, the right to hold meetings and organize demonstrations have been made impossible. Especially Mayday demonstrations and even the right of the main opposition party members to hold meetings have been denied. In circumstances of war, the defense of peace carries a risk to one’s existence; sacking and imprisonment of academics that signed a petition calling for peace is an example of this. It was announced that elected local governments will be discharged and replaced by arbitrary appointments.
The claim to “break free of the laws of coup” was a veil for building arbitrary laws of a “one-man, one-party dictatorship”; removing any meaning from “the rule of law”.
This course is domestically carried out by renewed alliance with the Ergenekon soldiers; in the name of “fighting terror” instead of the “peace process”; with the banning of street protests; through a conflict and war that is levelling to the ground those Kurdish cities besieged by tanks and cannons. Furthermore, policies of war, killing thousands of people by removing democratic rights and freedoms is forcing and has forced the country to a situation where it cannot be governed under ordinary circumstances. Primarily, the increase in the use of arms and armed forces led to increased influence of soldiers in the governance of the country; the role this played in making the country more prone to coup attempts cannot be denied.
The same course, has been advanced in foreign policy using politics of war in serving New-Ottoman expansionism. Displeasure with this course and the pursuit of alternatives among the dominant forces, caused by the disharmony with US foreign policy and rendered impossible after the Russian intervention in Syria is understandable. Linked to the domestic Kurdish issue, the “red lines” drawn on Syria lost all meaning and forced the AKP to change its policies; a political line of normalizing relations with Israel and Russia is adopted. However, the collapse of foreign policy targets – indexed to politics of war – led to military influence on foreign policy and provoked military pursuits, and to a conflict between the ruling cliques.
Furthermore, steps taken to unite the ruling classes in the name of transition to a one-man, one-party dictatorship led to discontent and bitterness among reactionary forces. Tax penalties and exclusion from government tenders and sharing of government resources, introduced in an attempt to “convince” even traditional monopolistic capital groups, are some of these steps.
Most serious sanctions targeted the Gülen Movement, an ally of the AKP since its foundation but fallen out with after the 17-25 November corruption investigations. This Movement is not only Islamist but also a big monetary fund. With its bank and investment companies, the largest mining company in the country, widespread investment in media and education sectors, and through its alliance with AKP, this group penetrated most of the state apparatus; primarily within the police, judiciary and the Armed Forces.
Following 25 November, this group was declared a “terrorist organization”, its bank and mining company were seized, media and education institutions were closed down; companies and members prosecuted and imprisoned. Following the clean-up in the judiciary and the police, as the appointments and promotions in the Armed Forces at the end of August approached, inquiries, arrests and court proceedings targeting members of this group had already started. This was the “last straw”; the organized forces of this group and other discontented groups in the army attempted a coup; aware of the clean-up lists, instead of being discharged and jailed, they were, in a way, forced into this attempt.
This attempted coup has been shown to be a showdown within the ruling reactionaries and thwarted.
It was undeniable that the coup – with its first stated measures of martial law and inhibition – was going to advance the rise of reactionism in both domestic and foreign policy and hence repelling it was important. However, it is clear that the attempted coup has strengthened the hand of the one-man, one-party reactionism of the AKP. President Erdoğan called this attempt a “gift from god” and stated that it gives him a “chance to cleanse the military”. This attempt exposed the Islamist ideological make-up of the police and the existence of a militant organization that played a significant role, after the call to take to the streets by Erdoğan, in suppressing the coup. It also strengthened this organized basis of AKP within the population. Now, under the pretext of a rushed “clean-up of the plotters”, an extreme “clean-up” among the judges and prosecutors along with the police and the army, has started. It is clear that this has and will serve the aims to create a state mechanism that follows only the orders of “one-man”. The AKP government has already started to legitimize this under the pretext of persecution of the exposed “Gulenist terrorism” – the narrowing of whose objectives they foresee – and cracking down on the plotters of the coup; using it as a catalyst to unite the population – starting with the bourgeois opposition – around its own objectives.
Our party, EMEP, clearly opposed the coup. Our party warns everyone that the defeat of the coup alone does not necessarily mean “democracy” and that democracy – and the rights and freedoms it provides – will be won by a difficult struggle. We call on everyone to the struggle to prevent the one-man, one-party dictatorship.
Photo: Turkish soldiers, arrested by civilians, are handed to police officers in Taksim Square in Istanbul, Turkey, early Saturday, after the coup. | AP