Happenings in Turkey strike dangerous chords for democracy, but….

By Dr. Michael J.K. Bokor

Monday, July 18, 2016

Folks, we have been monitoring happenings in Turkey since the attempted coup by a segment of the military to oust President Recep T. Erdogan from office and the aftermath with about 6,000 people supposedly connected with the coup attempt being detained so far. And 8,000 police officers have also been suspended on suspicion of being part of the coup attempt. Meantime, Gen Akin Ozturk, a former air force commander has denied being a ringleader of Friday’s attempted military coup in Turkey. (See http://www.bbc.com/news/world-europe-36829574).

I have taken a keen interest in this happening in Turkey to the extent that it has huge implications for global politics in many senses, especially within the context of Turkey’s own internal situation and the country’s relations with the United States, the European Union, and other parts of the world (including Ghana, which the Turkish President visited recently after the Ghanaian President had already visited Turkey in pursuit of partnership for mutual economic benefits).

We are not leaving out happenings in Syria too. Of course, Turkey’s stance on the Syrian crisis is obvious. So is its turn-around to repair relations with Israel.

Now, here is the nub. The Turkish President hasn’t had things going his way, especially with what led to the resignation of the Prime Minister (his closest ally over the years). There is really something terrible shaking the Turkish Establishment that the coup attempt underlines.

But there are complications too. After many anti-Erdogan demonstrations in the recent past and the fact that opposition against Erdogan is still vibrant, could some conspiracy theory be advanced that the coup attempt was masterminded by Erdogan himself to give him ample elbow room to clamp down on his opponents?

The quick pointing of accusing fingers at the Turkish cleric (Fethullah Gullen) residing in Pennsylvania in the United States as the mastermind of the failed military action cannot be glossed over. The Turkish authorities have been insistent that the coup attempt was hatched by Gullen and his forces, a charge that Gullen has dismissed.

Turkey is asking the US to deport Gullen to Turkey to face justice, but the US won’t so easily budge. As John Kerry has just said, the procedure for such an extradition hasn’t been set in motion. The US cannot just extradite Gullen to Turkey. The legal processes are complicated and need to be followed before the US can act on Turkey’s demand.

What does it all mean for the Turkish-US relations, especially in the context of the Coalition Forces’ involvement in the fight against the Islamic State terrorists?

Careful not to fall into Turkey’s trap, the US has already condemned the coup attempt as an affront to Turkey’s democracy. President Obama quickly denounced the coup attempt; but is that denunciation enough to bolster the Turkish government’s confidence in the US administration’s attitude toward Turkey? Suspicion still reigns high, especially if the US doesn’t bow to Turkey’s pressure to extradite Gullen.

So, where does it take the matter? First, the US is providing a safe haven for someone considered by Turkey (at least, in the light of the failed military coup) as its worst nemesis. In the same breath, the US is condemning the failed military coup that the Turkish government blames Gullen for but won’t easily release Gullen to his blood-hounds just because he has been accused of masterminding the destabilization effort. Credibility problems galore here!!

Behind everything, though, is the aspect that has to do with suspicion that the Turkish President might have adroitly manipulated the situation to clamp down on his opponents. Far-fetched though this angle may be, it can’t be dismissed just like that, especially if one considers how Erdogan has moved from one level to the other in the pursuit of his political aspirations. He came to public notice as the Prime Minister of Turkey only to ascend the throne as the President after some manouevres. His trusted right-hand man stepped into his shoes as the Prime Minister only to lose out after a conflict of interest situation.

Erdogan has a huge apparatus for sustaining his political interests. Probably to emerge as the modern-day Ataturk? Who knows? But must he tear up his own country in the process?

Using the failed coup as a trump-card, he is fast moving to purge the system of those likely to be identified as his ardent opponents. If he succeeds in neutralizing them, he will have a “blank cheque” to do in Turkey as his political ambitions will dictate. Such is the thinking of those who want to read deeper meanings into the happenings in Turkey.

Considering Erdogan’s loud call to his supporters to take to the streets to support him—and their quick positive response to placard him as the chosen leader of Turkey—it is not out-of-place to say that Erdogan has something up his sleeves.

What does he expect those not supporting him to do? To take the streets too and be crushed? They will know better how not to put their necks in the noose, meaning that they can pull the plug from other angles to worsen the situation in the country.

No matter how the situation pans out or how it ramifies, it is clear that the happenings in Turkey will have a huge impact on global politics. That is why those of us not directly associated with the way Turkey is positioned in world affairs have to weigh in. After all, it’s all about democracy (the rule of the people by the people through the power of their voting at polls to choose their leaders) and military putsch (the ability of those with the monopoly over the instrument of violence to take over the administration without recourse to the will of voters).

The point is that if the military could attempt overthrowing a democracy in Turkey in this 21st century when military intervention in politics is unspeakably repulsive, what lesson does it teach others elsewhere?

Surely, there must be something fundamentally wrong happening under Erdogan to provoke the military action to topple his administration. We don’t know what the grievances are or the very architects of the destabilization effort. No specific names of military officers mentioned, no reference to their agenda; but certainly, something happened to shake up the Turkish system.

Now, Erdogan has the trump-card to play; but to what effect, especially with the move to purge the military and the judiciary of supposed anti-Erdogan elements? Indeed, Turkey has a lot to do to regain its composure and bearing. We will continue monitoring the situation as it unfolds.

After all, the mere fact that a system is touted as democratic doesn’t mean that it is, indeed, democratic (serving the needs of its people). Even in democracy, some kind of tyranny reigns supreme!!

I shall return…

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