Erdoğan’s excesses: a year on from the Turkey coup

Last July, hundreds of thousands of Turkish citizens hit the streets to defend democracy when a faction of the military tried to seize power through a coup . It was a rare occasion of unity in Turkey’s otherwise fractious politics, with most parties denouncing the coup bid and Opposition politicians rushing to the government’s defence. The coup was defeated, leaving President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in a much stronger position. Mr. Erdoğan could have used the victory to usher in a new chapter in Turkey’s democracy. He could have introduced more reforms, expanded human rights and corrected the past wrongs of his government, which contributed to the military unrest in the first place. But what happened was exactly the opposite. Mr. Erdoğan launched a purge in the name of taking on the coup-plotters. The government blamed Fethullah Gülen, a U.S.-based Turkish Islamic preacher, for the coup, and said the crackdown was aimed at removing Mr. Güllen’s “parallel structure” from the government. But the nature and scope of the crackdown suggested it was targeted at more than just Mr. Güllen’s supporters. The government imposed a state of emergency as soon as the coup was defeated; it is still in place. More than 50,000 people have been jailed over the year. Twelve MPs, including Selahattin Demirtaş, a Kurdish politician and former presidential candidate, and at least 120 journalists are behind bars. Around 100,000 people have been dismissed from state service.


Even as the country was grappling with the post-coup purge and the emergency, Mr. Erdoğan went ahead with a referendum to change the Constitution. He won the vote, setting off a process to transform Turkey from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency. Domestically, his strongman image and a conservative agenda that appeals to the religious Turks lend support to his policies. Internationally, Mr. Erdogan’s Turkey is too important a regional power for most countries to antagonise over rights violations and authoritarian tendencies. Though there is occasional criticism, the West is keen to get along with Turkey, a crucial NATO ally. So Mr. Erdoğan may have found this an opportune time to leave his mark on Turkey. But how long can he rule by undermining its institutions? In power since 2002, his AK Party-led government has started showing signs of stress. This year’s referendum scraped through by a narrow margin. The Opposition, especially the Republican People’s Party, is trying to mobilise supporters. Its leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, recently led a ‘March for Justice’ from Ankara to Istanbul. The security situation is precarious, with a civil war raging in the Kurdish-populated southeast and jihadists targeting cities. Today, Turkey needs stability and unity most. But Mr. Erdoğan’s excesses endanger both.

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Printable version | Sep 21, 2022 4:19:16 am | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/erdogans-excesses-a-year-after-turkey-coup/article59781170.ece