Erdogan unfazed by military resignations

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre foreground, walks with army commanders during a ceremony at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey. File photo

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, centre foreground, walks with army commanders during a ceremony at the mausoleum of modern Turkey's founder Kemal Ataturk in Ankara, Turkey. File photo   | Photo Credit: Burhan Ozbilici


Top commanders put in their papers; new Army chief quickly appointed

Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has stamped his authority over the military by accepting the resignations of top armed forces commanders and quickly appointing an army chief of his choice.

On Friday, the Prime Minister appointed military police chief Gen. Necdet Ozel as the acting army chief after Chief of General Staff Gen. Isik Kosaner along with the commanders of the navy and air force resigned over controversy surrounding senior military appointments.

Gen. Kosaner had two years of service left, while the air force and the navy chiefs were slated to retire next month. Unfazed by the resignation of the top rung of the military hierarchy, the Prime Minister's office issued an assured statement that said that the Turkish armed forces “will continue to do their duty in a spirit of unity”.

In a country, where the armed forces are known for their decisive interventions in politics, the resignations are seen as marking the military's acceptance that its era of dominance in running the country is over. Some analyst have interpreted the resignations as the demise the first Republic, conceived and nurtured by the founding father Kamal Ataturk, and the birth of a new one, under elected civilian stewardship.

On three occasions in the past, the Turkish military has staged military coups. After its power grab in 1960, the armed forces went ahead to execute Adnan Menderes, the country's first democratically elected Prime Minister.

Observers point out that since his election in 2002, Mr. Erdogan's government has steadily eroded the military's clout. This has been partly achieved through legal reforms, but more prominently through marathon investigations and trials, where a number of high-ranking military personnel along with journalists have been charged with conspiracy to overthrow Mr. Erdogan's government. The armed forces less than satisfactory performance in its campaign against Kurdish fighters may also have encouraged the government to act more assertively.

The government's fierce assault has led to the arrest of more than 40 generals, eroding the senior military command of nearly 10 per cent of its work-force. Escalating the offensive, the government on Friday issued 22 more arrest warrants, in which two top generals were included, the Anatolian News Agency reported.

With the arrests blocking promotions of the charged individuals, and the stock of the military, apparently falling low in the public eye, General Kosaner and his counterparts in the navy and the air force on Friday threw in the towel. The outgoing General's bitterness was evident in his farewell statement. He said the purpose of the conspiracy cases “is to create the impression that the Turkish Armed Forces are a criminal organisation.”

He added that the situation “has prevented me from fulfilling my duties to protect the rights of my personnel and thereby rendered me unable to continue this high office that I occupy.”

Analysts point out that Mr. Erdogan's confidence to take-on the army head on, and deepen the democratic foundations, can be attributed to his party's growing influence in all major Turkish institutions, including the military. A number of surveys indicate that from its 90 per cent popularity in 2002, only 60 per cent of the Turkish people are currently trustful of the military.

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Printable version | Jan 20, 2020 12:08:45 AM |

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