Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Aiming for a Presidency in Perpetuity

"We will certainly support bringing the perpetrators of the coup to justice but we also caution against a reach that goes well beyond that."
"[The EU and US] urge the government of Turkey to uphold the highest standards of respect for the nation’s democratic institutions and the rule of law.”
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry

"The rule of law must prevail."
"France has condemned the coup, you can’t accept the military taking power. At the same time we have to be vigilant that the Turkish authorities don’t put in place a system which turns back democracy."
French Foreign Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault

"[The Erdogan administration] squandered [the opportunity to transform the country into] a functioning democracy that upholds universal human rights, gender equality, the rule of law and the rights of Kurdish and non-Muslim citizens."
"Government should be won through a process of free and fair elections, not force."
Exiled Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, Pennsylvania

"Bottom line is the relationship between the government and the military, no matter how loyal the generals may claim to be in future, is broken for good."
Chris Kilford, former Canadian military attache to Turkey, expert on Turkish military
An armed Turkish police officer stands guard during a funeral ceremony for victims of the failed July 15 coup attempt at Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on July 17, 2016. (ILYAS AKENGIN / AFP)
An armed Turkish police officer stands guard during a funeral ceremony for victims of the failed July 15 coup attempt at Kocatepe Mosque in Ankara on July 17, 2016. (ILYAS AKENGIN / AFP)

The United States and the European  Union have warned Turkey to respect the rule of law after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government launched a massive crackdown following the failed coup, arresting over 7,500 people and removing over 9,000 from the military, the police and the judiciary ... and particularly after hearing Erdogan musing that it's time to bring back the death penalty.

Strangely enough, the government was in possession of a list of thousands to be detained and arrested even before the coup attempt took place. That list was prepared for the same purpose to which it has now been put, and word of its existence has been rumoured to be the reason why the attempted putsch took place when it did; before those leading the attempt to remove the Justice and Development Party and President Erdogan from power were really prepared to take that final step in their long-simmering plans.

According to Turkey's state-operated Andalou news agency, Turkey’s former military attache to Israel reportedly has confessed to plotting the failed military coup to unseat President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Apparently, Akin Oturk confessed while under the process of interrogation. Photographs published in Turkish media show Ozturk, formerly chief of the Turkish Air Force, with injuries to his head and upper body.

The coup that left several hundred dead and several thousand wounded is over. Led by air force, military police and armoured units, senior commanders of the military appear to have closed ranks behind Erdogan. The presumed thousands of accused plotters were speedily detained leading to new purges in the military to ensure that anyone with a whiff of sympathy to the coup among soldiers and officers to be summarily removed.

The commander of the nation's second army based in eastern Turkey to counter threats from Syria, Iran and Iraq was arrested. "A new wave of purges in the military will likely weaken overstretched security services ... even if basic policies will remain the same", was the opinion of Howard Eissenstat at St.Lawrence University in Canton, N.Y. Most of Erdogan's military adversaries had already been jailed long before the failed coup erupted.

People waving Turkish flags at a rally on the streets of Kizilay Square in Ankara, Turkey, in reaction to the failed military coup, July 17, 2016. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)
Turks waving their country’s flag at a rally in Ankara in reaction to the failed military coup, July 17, 2016. (Chris McGrath/Getty Images)

Democracy under Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party has gradually eroded as civil liberties have been constrained. Newspapers and television stations in opposition to Erdogan were shuttered and occasionally new managers brought in to manage them. A thousand journalists and editors found themselves unemployed. Anyone who dared criticize Erdogan on social media found themselves charged and facing court action.

There may have been a few popular protests against Erdogan, promptly countered by security police, tear gas and rubber bullets, but for the most part, though secularists decried the changes Erdogan brought in countering the former long-lived Ataturkian Western-oriented values, the growing influence of Turkish Islamists has ensured that the Justice and Development Party had maximum electoral support. Stunningly, post-coup, Erdogan's popularity level has risen.

His roundup of 70 of Turkey's 350 generals and admirals is consolidating his power, and yet the deep divisions that are present within the armed forces will not dissolve. Thanks to social media and communications capacity Erdogan was able to call out his supporters to defy troops on the streets to kill them, leading the soldiers to hesitate and spelling the end of the coup.

U.S. refueling planes are parked at Incirlik airbase, near the southern
Turkish city of Adana. © Fatih Saribas

Akin Ozturk, member of the Turkish Supreme Military Council, included the president's top military adviser in his coup's inner circle and the commander of the Second Army among his coup cohorts. . He was in command of the main airbase (Incerlik) used by America troops. At the pinnacle of the coup, rebel pilots of two F-16 fighter jets had Erdogan's plane in their sights as he returned to Istanbul from the coastal resort of Marmaris.

"Why they didn't fire is a mystery", mused one former military officer. In an obvious attempt to seize Erdogan, 25 soldiers descended from helicopters on the Marmaris hotel from ropes, shooting as they rappelled, but simply minutes late, after Erdogan had departed. I must have come as a shock that among the names of plotters was Erdogan's military aide from his intimate inner circle, involved -- or accused of having been involved.

With his popularity level at such astronomical levels who now will be able to stop Erdogan from changing the country's constitution to remake the presidency into the imperial stronghold he envisions befitting a benevolent tyrant anxious to hold the title of imperial power to match the sumptuous glory of the imperial palace he built for himself as a caliph as of yore?

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses inside the new Ak Saray presidential palace (White Palace) on the outskirts of Ankara (File)
© AFP 2016/ ADEM ALTAN
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan poses inside the new Ak Saray presidential palace (White Palace) on the outskirts of Ankara

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