There are still many unanswered questions about what actually happened in Turkey on July 16. The only thing that is clear is that the current government has been strengthened, not weakened, by the coup attempt.
Government supporters wave Turkish flags during a protest in Istanbul, July 18, 2016. Photo: AP
After the coup attempt in Turkey, its President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called on his supporters to continue to be vigilant and not leave the streets. Despite the initial uncertainty of what might happen, it is now obvious that the putch was unsuccessful and was crushed by the ruling elite of the country. So what lessons can one learn from this “strange coup attempt”?
First of all, the coup was badly thought out, either on purpose or through bad planning. Its participants were not able to seize either the president or prime minister. Instead, they attempted to launch strikes at the parliament, crush street protesters with tanks, overrun the main Turkish TV station and control access to some bridges over the Bosphorus. The lost time was used by the country’s government to send text messages to its supporters, and call for help and consolidation of support through loudspeakers on the minarets and through other means.
In addition, early on, Erdogan was able to control the special services, most notably the police, which was earlier under the control of religious leader Fethullah Gulen, who now lives in the United States. It was his supporters, judges and army officers who comprised the majority of the coup’s leadership.
Formerly, Gulen was a colleague and a supporter of Turkey’s president. In fact, they began to support the growth of Islam in the country together. However, the religious leader was mostly involved in political lobbying in the sphere of education, and on the whole, was an instrument of soft power.
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After the weakening of the military, which guaranteed the secularism established by Kemal Ataturk (a military officer, reformer and the first Turkish President from 1923 until his death in 1938), the views of the two ambitious leaders diverged. This led to a conflict and previously divided spheres of influence became subjects of strife.
In this current coup attempt, Erdogan has already implicated his former colleague and demanded that the United States release him back to Turkey. Turkey's Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım announced that any country protecting Gulen is no friend of Turkey.
Was it possible that people connected to Gulen were involved in the coup attempt? It might be the case, because he could be really interested in it. He is known to have cursed Erdogan, sometimes quite provocatively. But there are also many other powerful groups who are seeking to gain power in Turkey — including secular forces within the country, and some Western partners of Turkey, which could be unhappy with Ankara’s independence in policy.
It is important to mention that military coups are relatively normal for Turkey. Revolutionaries, in their fight over the role of Islam within the nation, have attempted numerous government overthrows, only to give back power after elections. When these coups occurred, Turkey’s loyalty to the United States did not diminish, but in fact, actually increased, while those responsible for collaborating with the enemies of Turkey were jailed. That’s part of what makes this new coup so strange – Turkey is now raising the issue of its relationship with the United States.
In the context of the greater role that Islam began to play within Turkey, and the improvement of relations between Moscow and Ankara, there is a confluence of two factors that could account for the attempted coup. It’s possible that the military simply could not stand the idea of both happening simultaneously and took what it thought were the necessary steps.
But judging from the results of the failed coup in Turkey, the era of revolutions is over. There will be a major overhaul of army officials: The ones responsible for the coup will be exposed and arrested, while the younger officers, who have been educated properly by the present elite, do not pose a threat.
It would not be surprising if capital punishment were once again implemented, and, in fact, the government is already talking about it. The strengthening of authoritarian tendencies might come hand-in-hand with the powerful presidency that Erdogan has been trying to create for a long time.
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In the attempted coup, there is only one winner — the present government. So new questions arise. Was it possible that the special services knew about the coup? Is it really out of the question that Turkish officials themselves staged the coup in order to strengthen their own positions and get rid of the opposition? Or, perhaps the coup attempt originated with the special services for these very reasons?
Answers to these questions will only become apparent with time. It is obvious that the coup was strange and led to needless casualties, and strengthened the position of the government, whose power is now unlimited. Average citizens, who by and large do not delve deeply into confusing political nuances, now support the government.
At any rate, there will be some instability in the short run, but slowly there will be an increase in authoritarian tendencies on the part of the government. Government policy, both domestic and foreign, will become more and more defined.
If the government manages to preserve some common sense following the victory in the coup, and not follow its destructive neo-Ottoman foreign policy, then Turkey will once again be a paradise for tourists and a stable country in a very unstable region.
The opinion of the author may not necessarily reflect the position of Russia Direct or its staff.