Κυριακή, 19 Ιανουαρίου 2014

An Egyptian model for Turkey?

An unexpected byproduct of the current political crisis in Turkey involves a potential return of the military tutelage system. This may not be as farfetched as one might think.
In a mindboggling statement, the top political advisor to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan suggested a couple of weeks ago that the military was framed by the same prosecutors who launched the corruption probe against the government. Such a statement puts into question the whole legitimacy of the Ergenekon trial and creates expectations for a legal review. It looks like an embattled Erdoğan is increasingly willing to forge an unholy alliance with the once all-powerful Turkish army against the Gülen movement. After all, the prime minister has gone on record saying that he favors retrials of military officers who were jailed for coup-plotting in 2012 and 2013. Such a development potentially paves the road for a return of the generals as powerful actors who may seek vengeance via Turkish politics.

The establishment of civilian supremacy over the military was perhaps the single most important political achievement of the last decade. In a country that witnessed four military interventions since the beginning of multi-party democracy, the military was no longer calling the shots mainly because the top brass was totally emasculated by the judiciary and the executive. The alliance between the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Gülen movement was the main engine behind this process. Instead of following a strategy of dividing their enemy, the generals managed to unite the AKP and the Gülen movement with their electronic memorandum on April 27, 2007. As you will remember, it was shortly after the 2007 elections that the Ergenekon investigations and trials were launched, and the main targets were officers accused of planning to overthrow the civilian government. Hundreds of military officers, including former army chief Gen. İlker Başbuğ, were convicted and given long jail terms for plotting to overthrow the civilian government. In many ways, it was the common enemy of military tutelage that united the AKP and the Gülen movement. Once this existential struggle was won and the military was totally emasculated, the two former allies began to diverge. The new existential political struggle in Turkey's current post-Kemalist phase is between these two former allies. Now that this political struggle puts into question the legitimacy of the past trials, the big winner is the military.

What would this mean in practice? Turkey now looks increasingly unstable and the upcoming elections may further polarize the country. Few analysts doubt the AKP will win the local elections. But the margin of victory and whether the AKP maintains the İstanbul and Ankara municipalities will be crucial for future political dynamics. In any case, it looks like Erdoğan will insist on his electoral understanding of democracy without respecting the separation of powers or individual rights and liberties. This could lead to more, not less, political instability in Turkey.

Imagine a scenario where the AKP claims electoral victory but there are growing street protests against the authoritarian style of the government. This is basically the Gezi Park scenario, but this time with the Gülen movement joining the protests. In case there is violence and bloodshed, this could become the ideal scenario for the military to step in and declare emergency law. One can easily see how an emboldened Turkish military may decide to restore its lost authority in such a way. Imagine what would happen under such a doomsday scenario to what is left of Turkish democracy, the economy, Turkey-EU relations, the İmralı process? With the army back in power, you can kiss goodbye all the positive achievements of the last decade. And with the military declaring emergency law, there would no longer be a Turkish model of “moderate Islam” to speak of for the West. Instead, with the military back in charge, Turkey would be seen as having adopted the Egyptian model. What a tragic turn of events that would be for a country that was once seen as the best hope for the Islamic world.

ÖMER TAŞPINAR (Cihan/Today's Zaman)

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