TURKEY’S democratically elected government survived the coup attempt, but it is questionable whether Turkish democracy will survive the latest victory of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan over what remained of the old military establishment. It was a resounding victory and nobody will stop to think about how badly the coup was planned and executed.
This was another show of the public popularity of the authoritarian Erdogan with thousands of ordinary Turks ignoring the risk to their lives and heeding Erdogan’s call to take to the streets and fight against the coup. His position has been strengthened by the weekend’s events and he will now have the justification and support to carry out another ‘purge’ of the army and the judiciary, where the last pockets of resistance to his authoritarian rule remained.
The Turkish authorities arrested 6,000 people including top-ranking army officers and senior judges. The news of the arrests was reported on Saturday, which would suggest these had been ready before the coup had started on Friday evening. It is difficult to believe that the state authorities could have issued 6,000 arrest warrants within a few hours of a coup attempt and before normality had been fully restored.
“This uprising is a gift from God to us because this will be a reason to cleanse our army,” Erdogan said Saturday, making no secret of his agenda. It was not only the cleansing of the army he had pursued. On the same day, a reported 2,745 judges were removed from duty by decision of the High Council of Judges and Prosecutors. Had 2,745 judges participated in the coup or had Erdogan seized the opportunity to clear the judiciary of any judge that was not loyal to him and his ruling AKP?
He made his intentions clear in a speech at a funeral in Istanbul for the victims of the coup. “We will continue to cleanse the virus from all state institutions, because this virus has spread; unfortunately like a cancer this virus has enveloped the state,” he told mourners. Yesterday he took the unprecedented step of barring all state employees from leaving the country, while he has also said he would consider reinstating the death penalty which was a public demand. He would be consulting the opposition parties about this, he said, and, probably, accuse them of going against the people’s wishes if they do not consent.
The uprising was indeed a “gift from God” to Erdogan who is now taking all the steps to consolidate his absolute power. Freedom of speech has been suppressed, news media are under the control of the state and now the judiciary will be under his complete control as well. The next step would be changing the constitution so that his totalitarian rule is given a veneer of legality.