'Truth spoken without moderation reverses itself'
This blog is a source for intellectual exploration. It includes a list of alternative resources and a source of free books. The placement of an article does not imply that I agree with it, merely that I found it thought-provoking. There are also poems and book reviews. Texts written by me are labelled. Readers are free to re-post anything they like.
Sunday, July 17, 2016
Andrew Finkel - Turkey was already undergoing a slow-motion coup – by Erdoğan, not the army
What happens in Turkey matters. It is a G20
economy in a sensitive part of the world, sharing borders with Iraq, Iran and
Syria. Turkey is an asset to its Nato partners when it is able to exercise a
leadership role. It can be a liability when its own problems – like the tension
with its Kurdish population – spill over those frontiers. And it can be a
millstone around the world’s neck when it decides, as
it did on Friday, to self-harm.
The coup attempt that
night was, by any account, a cack-handed affair. It was an attempt to grab the
reins of a complex society with the almost quaintly
antediluvian tactics of seizing the state television station and
rolling some tanks on to the streets. It is as if the plotters had never heard
of social media, while the Turkish president himself to addressed
his supporters via FaceTime, urging them out on the streets. Crowds played
chicken with the putschists, betting they would return to their barracks rather
than have the streets run red with blood. Even then, at
least 180 people – civilians, police and coup makers – died.
Indeed, the question
is less why the coup failed than why it was ever carried out. If it had an air
of amateur desperation, it is because its perpetrators probably assumed that
this was their last chance to stop the government of PresidentRecep Tayyip
Erdoğan from getting the military completely under its control. At the
beginning of August, the military high council will meet, as it does every
year, to consider who gets promoted, retired or pushed aside. In the last few
days, the pro-government press has been more than hinting that a spring
cleaning of the ranks is long overdue.
Indeed, many would
argue that Turkey was
already in the throes of a slow motion coup d’état, not by the military but by
Erdoğan himself. For the last three years, he has been moving, and
methodically, to take over the nodes of power.
The pressures on the
media have been well documented, as the country slides in international ratings
by organisations such as Freedom
House, from partly free to not free at all. Opposition newspapers have been
taken over by court-appointed administrators. Dissident television stations
have had the plug pulled from satellites; digital platforms are no longer seen
in people’s homes. Erdoğan curses
the very social media which this weekend helped to save his skin.
government has put the judiciary under its thumb. It is now a brave judge who
rules in a way he knows will give official offence. So while the Turkish
parliament congratulated itself on a long night’s defence of democracy, many
wonder why its members connived in the decline of the rule of law.
And still Erdoğan
craves greater authority. Last May, he
discarded one prime minister in favour of another more sympathetic to
his plans to change the parliamentary system into a strong executive
presidency. When the coup plotters stand trial, they may suffer the additional
indignation of seeing their attempts to put Erdoğan in his place backfire, by
providing a mandate for such increased powers. The president has already
promised a purge of those still connected to the exiled dissident cleric Fethullah
Gülen – Erdoğanspeak for anyone who opposes his will.
To the outside world,
this spectacle should cause dismay. Turkish ambitions to project power, to
assist in the fight against Islamic State, to help forge a settlement in Syria
will be much harder to realise if the government is at war with its own
military and the army at war with itself. A Turkey that governs through
consensus is the more valuable ally. The Turkish economy, too, will be more
buoyant if relieved of the weight of political risk.
The lesson of the
failed coup is that Turkey needs a leader who can bring different sides of a
divided society together – or at the very least, one who is willing to try.