Ankara (Tasnim) – Turkey’s domestic and foreign policy experienced big changes a year after failed coupe in the country and it seems that Ankara has now a more realistic approach at least in case of regional and international developments.
On 15 July 2016, a coup d’état was attempted in Turkey against state institutions. The attempt was carried out by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces that organized themselves as the Peace at Home Council. They attempted to seize control of several key places in Ankara, Istanbul, and elsewhere, but failed to do so after forces loyal to the state defeated them.
The Council cited an erosion of secularism, elimination of democratic rule, disregard for human rights, and Turkey’s loss of credibility in the international arena as reasons for the coup. The government accused the coup leaders of being linked to the Gülen movement which is designated as a terrorist organization by the Republic of Turkey and led by Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish businessman who lives in Pennsylvania. Gülen has suggested the coup was in fact a “self-coup” carried out by Erdogan.
Several places were renamed to commemorate the failed coup. In April 2017, it was announced that President Erdoğan planned to establish a purpose-built museum dedicated to the coup events, called the “Museum of the 15 July: Martyrs and Democracy”, to be located in Kahramankazan, a town near Ankara. Paid for by Turkish Ministry of Culture funds, it is planned to open at the end of 2018.
Arrests in Post-Coup Probes
After the coup, Turkey government initiated several measures to prosecute and arrest those accused to be involved in the military move.
According to Turkish Hurriyet Daily, Turkey has arrested a total of 50,510 people accused of having links to the Fethullahist Terrorist Organization (FETÖ, the Justice Ministry said on July 13.
“Within the scope of investigations [launched after coup attempt],a total of 50,510 people have been arrested, including 169 generals, 7,098 colonels and lower ranking soldiers, 8,815 police department members, 24 governors, 73 deputy governors, 116 district governors, 2,413 judiciary members, and 31,784 other suspects,” the ministry said in a statement.
The ministry also said 169,013 suspects have so far faced legal proceedings on suspicion of links to FETÖ since last year’s coup attempt.
Among the 8,087 people sought over FETÖ charges and currently on the run, there are- reportedly 152 soldiers, 392 police officers, three deputy governors, nine district governors, 265 judiciary members, and 7,266 other suspects.
A total of 48,439 people, including 3,046 soldiers, 5,024 police officers, nine governors, 27 deputy governors, 73 district governors, 1,219 judiciary members, and 39,041 other suspects, were released with a judicial control decision.
Of the arrested 2,413 judiciary members, some 2,280 were judges and public prosecutors, 105 were members of the Supreme Court of Appeals, 41 were members of the Council of State, two were members of the Constitutional Court, and three were members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors.
Tens of thousands of public employees have been dismissed with state of emergency decree laws for alleged links to Gülen. A new commission called the “State of Emergency Procedures Investigation Commission” will begin receiving objections decree rulings, including dismisials, starting on July 17, Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said on July 12. A total of 110,000 applications are expected to be received by the commission in the first stage.
Around 105,000 are expected to be from police officers, military officers and civil servants. Some 33,000 teachers have been dismissed from their duties, Education Minister İsmet Yılmaz said on June 23.
Following months-long internal and external tension, the referendum took place on April 16 which resulted in a very narrow win for the Yes camp with 51.4 percent of votes. Naysayers gathered 48.6 percent of votes.
While critics say the move is part of a grab by Erdogan for one-man rule, supporters say it will simply put Turkey in line with France and the United States and is needed for efficient government.
The current constitution was adopted in 1982 after the 1980 military coup.
Erdogan has denounced as “lies” claims by opponents that parliament would be neutralized and the judiciary would come under his political authority.
Under the new constitution, the president would have strengthened executive powers to directly appoint top public officials including ministers.
The president would also be able to assign one or several vice presidents. The office and position of prime minister, currently held by Binali Yildirim, would be scrapped.
The changes would implement a shake-up in the judiciary, which Erdogan has accused of being influenced by supporters of his ally-turned-foe, Fethullah Gulen.
The president and parliament would together be able to choose four members of the Supreme Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSYK), a key judicial council that appoints and removes personnel in the judiciary.
Parliament would choose seven members on its own in what would be renamed the Board of Judges and Prosecutors (HSK).
Longer State of Emergency
Under the new constitution, a state of emergency would be imposed in the event of an “uprising against the homeland” or “acts of violence which put the nation in… danger of being divided.”
The president would decide whether or not to impose a state of emergency and then present it to the parliament.
Initially the emergency would last six months — as opposed to three now — then it could be extended by parliament after a presidential request for four months at a time.
Turkey has twice extended the current state of emergency imposed after the failed July 15 coup.
The number of members of the Turkish parliament would rise from 550 to 600. The minimum age limit for MPs would also be lowered from 25 to 18.
Legislative elections would take place once every five years — instead of four — and on the same day as the presidential elections.
The parliament would still have power to enact, modify and remove legislation. If the president were accused or suspected of a crime, then parliament could request an investigation.
The president will also have to be a Turkish citizen at least 40 years old, and can be a member of a political party. Currently the president must be impartial and without party favor, although opponents have accused Erdogan of blatantly flouting this.
The change would again allow Erdogan to become leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) that he co-founded.
Erdogan was elected president in August 2014 after over a decade as prime minister, in the first-ever direct elections for a Turkish head of state.
The proposed constitution states that the next presidential and parliamentary elections are to be held simultaneously on November 3, 2019.
If he won, the president would have a five-year term with a maximum of two mandates.
So the changes would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029.
Changes in Foreign Policy Stances
Now Turkey is a partner of Iran and Russia in diplomatic efforts for resolution of Syria crisis while before the coup, Ankara was a defiant supporter of armed opposition groups in the war-torn region.
The relations between Ankara and the western capitals, including Washington, Berlin and many other European countries is worse and after the coupe, many cooperation agreements between Europe and Turkey have been suspended.
Improvement of Ties with Russia
According to the US based Business Insider news outlet, “Erdogan is flirting with Russia as a trump card against the US,” Aykan Erdemir, a former member of Turkish parliament and senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, told Business Insider on Wednesday.
Erdemir noted that Erdogan doesn’t see the US as a partner in its battle against Turkey’s domestic Kurdish insurgency, and still resents the US’ support of Syrian Kurdish fighters that Turkey views as a threat to its territorial sovereignty.
Moreover, Russia was quick to condemn the failed coup the night of the attempt and has been generally supportive of Erdogan’s subsequent measures against on the alleged coup plotters. The US and Europe, on the other hand, have criticized the extreme measures Erdogan has taken to purge Turkey of political dissidents and muzzle free speech.
Turkey-EU Relations after Coup Attempt
According to the US based al-Monitor news outlet, Turkey’s ties with Europe, already strained over a host of issues, are heading for a nosedive after the failed July 15 coup attempt against President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Most Turks feel Europe did not stand by Turkey in its hour of need, instead adopting a wait-and-see attitude as events unfolded.
That no European leader or senior European Union official rushed to Turkey after the failed attempt — to show solidarity against an attack on its democracy — has fueled a belief among Turks that Europe is steeped in double standards when Turkey is concerned. Also reinforcing negative sentiments toward Europe are European criticism of the massive purge against suspected followers and sympathizers of Fethullah Gulen and warnings that reinstating the death penalty to punish coup plotters would end Ankara’s hopes of joining the EU.
Turks thrive on conspiracy theories, and according to one currently circulating, Europe would have been happy to see the coup succeed, because it would have killed two birds with one stone: It would have overthrown an Islamist president and government despised in the West, and it would have automatically ended Turkey’s EU membership bid, which many in Europe oppose.
Erdogan is now threatening to renege on the refugee deal if the visa provision is not honored. EU officials admit that Ankara has been honoring its end of the bargain and are now concerned about the fate of the agreement.
There was also the Armenian genocide resolution adopted by the German Bundestag in June, considered the ultimate betrayal by Turks. Capping off all the above are the negative feelings generated after the failed coup attempt. Threats from Europe that Turkey’s EU membership bid could be suspended nevertheless ring hollow for Turks, because the talks were going nowhere anyway.
A fact that Europe must face is that Erdogan is now an even greater force to contend with after the failed coup. The future of ties will depend on whether he and Europe can overcome their mutual antipathy for the sake of big picture considerations. Given the present mood on both sides, it appears this will not be an easy task.
New Phase in Turkey, US Ties
President Recep Tayyip Erdogaan accused the head of United States Central Command, chief General Joseph Votel of “siding with coup plotters”, after Votel accused the Turkish government of arresting the Pentagon’s contacts in Turkey.
President Erdogan asked the United States to extradite Gülen “I call on you again, after there was a coup attempt. Extradite this man in Pennsylvania to Turkey! If we are strategic partners or model partners, do what is necessary.”
Turkish Prime Minister Yildirim has threatened war against any country that would support Gülen. Turkish Labor Minister Süleyman Soylu claimed that “America is behind the coup.”
Regarding the AKP’s allegations against Gülen, former US secretary of state Kerry invited the Turkish government “to present us with any legitimate evidence that withstands scrutiny,” before they would accept an extradition request.
This post originally ran on Tasnim News Agency.
Also published on Medium.