Military Coup in Turkey?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Saadallah Zarei

Multilateral efforts are underway to undermine the position of the Islamists in Turkey and it seems that “elimination of religion from formal relations” is the most pivotal aim of these attempts. To analyze the recent events in Turkey, it is necessary to review some of the news reports.

On February 9, 2008, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan submitted a bill to the parliament to change two articles in Turkey’s Constitution that would guarantee Muslim girls the right to go to college with Islamic cover.

The bill was endorsed with 80 percent of the votes and thanks to the cooperation of MPs from “Justice and Development” Party (AKP) and Nationalist Action Party (MHP). It was then sent to President Abdullah Gul for final endorsement which he signed.

Following the approval of the law, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) led by Deniz Baykal handed a protest letter to the constitutional court. The CHP owns only 8 seats in the current parliament and despite a record of two decades of sovereignty over the government and the parliament, does not enjoy a suitable place in Turkey’s political and official scenes today.

However, the constitutional court comprising 11 judges appointed by former president Ahmet Necder Sezer found the parliament ruling and government bill counter to Article 2 of the constitution which safeguards the laic regime in Turkey, and therefore annulled it.

This decision to cancel the constitutional amendment faced strong objections from the Turkish people and led to big demonstrations in various Turkish cities. Ankara witnessed the biggest protest demonstration. However, the laics insisted on their decision and would not reconsider it. But this was not the end of the story!

The constitutional court and the laics also demanded punishment of the Justice and Development Party and called for its dissolution. In fact, dissolution of parties has a record of four decades in Turkey. But over the past decade, there have been just two cases when the Islamist parties Rifah (Prosperity) and Fezilat (Virtue) were ordered dissolved. The threat by the laic constitutional court to dissolve the ruling party which owns 47 percent of the seats in the parliament would not be easy to carry out because it would result in political chaos and suspend the political climate, namely the parliament and the government. By insisting on their demands, the laics have shown – or pretended – that they welcome chaos and suspension of the political atmosphere and have no respect for political prestige and national interests of the people.

In their opposition to women’s headscarves at universities the laics in Turkey are relying on constitutional articles which have totally lost their credibility before the people and if put to a referendum at least 90 percent of the Turks would vote against their survival. For the same reason, the punishment of the Justice and Development Party would mean the punishment of the Turkish citizens who with their firm vote over the past 10 years have preferred the Islamists to the laics. This is to the extent that the CHP despite its broad economic influence and big support from the West occupies only 8 percent of the parliamentary seats. It seems the votes of the Turkish people – or according to the Westerners, democracy – is of little importance here when it comes to group interests: the same group which despite being in the minority imposed its rule on the country for long years by relying on the power of the army and the support of the West.

Along the attempts of the constitutional court to dissolve AKP which would be a prelude to political turmoil, some retired army generals together with some current army officials forging a coalition with a political faction of the laics and their parties over the past five months, have time and again called for a coup d’etat against the Islamists. They have also assigned an armed group to assassinate high-level government officials, including the prime minister, and have bombed important political and economic centers and even people’s assemblies resulting in martyrdom of dozens of people. They have tried to link ideological confrontation against the Islamists with social confrontation and this issue is very much open to contemplation.

Earlier this month, the Turkish daily `Taraf` exposed a military coup attempt known as “Action Plan” designed 19 months ago by key army elements,  aimed to bring judges, journalists, nongovernmental organizations and celebrities under the influence of the armed forces as well as in consultation with certain Western countries. They aimed to take over the state of affairs in Turkey for at least 10 years by annulling elected institutions.

Another group comprising retired army officials, journalists and judicial elements and headed by ‘Ergenekon’ – a shadowy ultranationalist secular group, was discovered this month. Some 60 people, including Sener Eruygur, head of the Kemalist Thought Association, which helped organize mass anti-government demonstrations last year, were arrested. Eruygur, once head of the paramilitary gendarmerie, and Hursit Tolon, the former first army commander were sent to a prison in Istanbul. Eruygur disclosed that other coup attempts had been designed to be launched in case the action plan failed. This reminds one of yellow coup d’etats known as purple revolutions in other countries with the difference that in yellow coups the Westerners resort to pseudo-elections but in Turkey where elections would not turn the page in favor of the laics, they would resort to “political alliance” and using unpopular laic institutions.

What is interesting amidst all this is the dual stance taken by Europe. On the one hand, Europe continues its strong ties with the former ruling party (CHP) and condemns the call for Islamic cover in Turkey as the most important obstacle in the way of Ankara joining the EU. At the same time, it condemns dissolution of the AKP and warns laic institutions such as the constitutional court and army against consequences of such dissolution. Why?

The Europeans are well aware that the laics are not in a position to initiate a transformation and development in Turkey. They are unable to launch a coup – because it is not possible to wage a coup against the people. They are unable to benefit from legal tools because most of the legal tools are in the hands of the ruling Islamist party. Even the constitutional judges are appointed and dismissed by the president. Should the Islamist Turkish president decide, he can dismiss all the members of the court at once. President Gul has not done this so far due to some expediency.

The laics are also unable to take advantage of elections and early elections which are used in yellow coups because more than 90 percent of the people – even those who are not very religious – would vote for the Islamist party. For the same reason, the Europeans know neither legal means nor illegal means would be able to change the present establishment in Turkey and its Islamist government.


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