Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

Turkish Democracy And Challenges To It

Musab Talha AKPINAR

Key words: Turkish democracy, established order, military coup, civil politics, July 15

Turkish democracy has always been on shaky ground. Turkey started the stable, multi-party period of its political life in 1946, shortly before the end of one-party rule by the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which lasted until the 1950 elections. Since the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, this election was the first free and fair election that made possible that the Turkish nation could eventually expose its will in the political arena. The overwhelming triumph of the Democrat Party (DP) under the leadership of Adnan Menderes in the 1950 elections was a hopeful event for people who had been systematically ignored by the political establishment.

While the manifestation of the national will had been precluded by one-party rule during the early decades of the Republic, disallowing political parties from appearing on the political scene was not only a way to scupper democracy. A later phase of the evolution of Turkish democracy was the multi-party system being interrupted by military coups and interventions. Besides bureaucratic and judicial tutelage of the established order, the tough side of the establishment generally applied to military options with intent to arrange domestic politics as the guardian of Turkish democracy, but, indeed, constrained the national will throughout the years. First hit to democracy and civil government by the military was the coup of May 27, 1960. This coup, staged by 38 young military officers, removed the democratically elected government from power, and moreover Prime Minister Adnan Menderes along with two ministers were sentenced to death by hanging in a military trial. A junta hereby intercepted the hard path to democracy and it was indeed a death warrant that implied that national will’s elbowroom was limited in the establishment. From this date forward, Turkish democracy maintained its life under the shadow of the military interventions from traditional coups to a “post-modern coup”, ultimatums and e-memorandum. After the March 12 coup by memorandum in 1971, Turkish politics went into heavy turbulence in the 1970s. Throughout the 1970s, ideological conflicts spilled out into the streets, political violence and assassinations erupted and 10 different governments were in power. At the end of this chaotic process, on Sept. 12, 1980, the military seized the rule of the country completely within the chain of command. Turkish democracy was hurt once again. The following years after the 1980 coup saw political parties closed down, civil society and its components consistently suppressed, political leaders banned from politics, hundreds of citizen tortured in prisons or simply sentenced to death.

The military interventions in 1960, 1971 and 1980, against center-right governments threw Turkish democracy off track and created a path of dependence on the established politics. So, indeed, it was absolutely certain that political parties and their leaders would be punished during military interventions or by court verdicts at best, whenever a political party and its leader pushed their activities beyond the established order’s boundaries. The Welfare Party (RP) at the end of the 1990s and the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) in the early 2000s suffered from this established political order. The RP was overthrown in the “postmodern coup”, also called the “February 28 Process”, in 1997, and after a while was closed by the Constitutional Court in 1998. Despite the fact that awareness and anti-coup sentiment among the nation was fair enough, civil politics and its actors, unfortunately, were never robust enough that they could explicitly challenge and defeat the then power structure. In other words, a center-periphery struggle occurred again and again with the center winnings for more than 50 years.

After many years of conflict, the AK Party under Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s leadership came into the picture, challenged the established order and finally succeed in giving political power to its real owner in the people. However, it was not easy to achieve. Even though the AK Party got the majority of seats in Parliament in 2002, it was not capable of pushing its activities beyond the established order’s boundaries. For instance, the headscarf ban at universities was still in practice and lasted until nearly 2011, in spite of overexerting, like passing the amendments of two articles in the Constitution with 411 votes for and 103 against with the help of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) in 2008, or challenging media patrons ran “411 hands rose to chaos”. In addition to the bureaucratic and media establishment, the judicial establishment also targeted the national will. The AK Party, as a political party, was very close – one vote – to being closed down by the Constitutional Court in 2008. Regarding the AK Party’s presidential candidate and so-called protection of laicism, the military issued a statement at midnight on April 27, 2007, in an e-memorandum that threatened the democratically elected, civilian government. A few months later, the people showed their reaction to coups and, indeed, to all dimensions of the established order’s activities and finally gave the AK Party 46.5 percent of the vote. The AK Party was encouraged enough to struggle with military tutelage. The Ergenekon investigations, acceptance of the 2010 constitutional amendment package and the AK Party garnering 49.5 percent of the vote in the 2011 elections were considerable events in making the 80-year-old establishment lose its power.

Despite the fact that the establishment and all kind of tutelages were losing power and their reputations through the AK Party’s efforts and support of the people, another organized group led by U.S.-based cult leader Fetullah Gülen were concurrently infiltrating state institutions such as military, judiciary and bureaucracy and all social life from education to business, media and banking. This group had obtained great power over more than 30 years, and it became clearer that it started to abuse it since about 2012, such as in the “National Intelligence Organization (MIT) crises”, the false accusations in Ergenekon and Balyoz trials, the Uludere airstrike, false allegation of government corruption on Dec. 17-25, 2013, illegal wiretapping and shooting down a Russian warplane. All these events helped Turkish people understand very well that this group was not an innocent religious group, but that it was a terrorist organization, the Gülenist Terror Group (FETÖ), which lastly attempted a coup on July 15, 2016 that the people were able to suppress. It ended with 249 civilians dead and thousands of people wounded.

From the foundation of the Republic of Turkey in 1923 to the present, Turkish democracy has experienced many anti-democratic challenges from the established order and its actors. Military interventions into civilian politics were at the forefront of these practices. However, the Turkish people have learned a lot during the past decades.

With the difference of experienced military interventions in the past, the Turkish people showed their loyalty to democracy not only by expressing their opinions, but also by fighting on the streets and putting their necks on the line against the coup attempt on July 15. Beyond any doubt, this spirit and success could not have risen to the surface without Erdoğan’s leadership, fearlessness and common fate with people.

Category 1

Turkey’s Democracy Journey and Anti-Coup Development from the Proclamation of the Republic of Turkey on Oct. 29, 1923, until the Occupying Terrorist FETÖ July 15, 2016 Coup Attempt.

1. Fatma Nur HÜKÜM

Resisting A Coup: Lessons From Turkey's July 15 Coup Attempt

2. Mehmet TURGUT

Journey For Democracy In Turkey And Oppositon To Military Coups

3. Musab Talha AKPINAR

Turkish Democracy And Challenges To It