Self-neutralization of Turkish generalship:
The unexpected consolidated resignation of the high military management of Turkey is viewed variously. Some experts say that ebbing of Turkish army’s influence on political life of the country is a positive factor for further development of democracy. Others warn about the threat of Islamisation, something the army previously prevented.
The army is blamed for three military takeovers: in 1961, 1971 and 1980 and a “soft takeover” in 1997. Caring about civil values of the country, the military interfered with inner policy, when they thought this or that head of the state stopped following Ataturk legacy and Turkish political life went wrong. It is obvious that this interfering didn’t correlate with classic principles of democracy.
However, while Turkey had been NATO’s outpost in the Cold War, nobody in the West paid attention to non-democratic measures taken by the Turkish army. The function of the country was complete military support of Western states. Moreover, in 1980 experts discussed Afghan variant for Turkey, but it failed due to a military takeover.
The other opinion is that the army has been an important preventive factor against Islamisation of Erdogan’s government. Moreover, some experts are afraid of concentration of power in hands of one party, even if it was elected democratically, as it might be dangerous for development of Turkish democracy. In addition, a military takeover in Turkey is not a military takeover in Latin America, in all three cases the military gave power to civil politicians after a short period of ruling.
The analyst of the Austrian Institute of International Policy Chingiz Gunai gave an interview to public television of Austria and stated that considering the recent developments uncertainty reigns in Turkish society. On the one hand, people stand for further democratization and against permanent interfering with political processes by the army. On the other hand, people doubt on real aims of the ruling party, which more and more monopolizes power in the country. Gunai thinks the army’s positions were seriously hurt and in the future it couldn’t play such a powerful role in the political life of Turkey, as it did before.
In recent period of time confrontation between the army and the ruling party has reached its pick. The political authorities refused to advance in rank arrested Turkish officers, which was suggested by the General Staff, (more than 200 Turkish officers and generals arrested for preparation of takeovers against the current government). The General Staff doesn’t allow members of AKP take key military positions. Of course, the confrontation influenced negatively on the situation in military sphere. First of all, the point is army’s reputation and its spirit. AKP arrests military men and thus exploding reputation of the army, which has historically been respected greatly in Turkey. Pro-governmental media forms a negative image of the army as a hid state, an uncontrolled structure. That is why the former head of the General Staff Ishik Koshaner decided to resign. He didn’t see any reason to continue his work.
European media worry about decrease of military force of Turkey, especially in the context of Turkish mission in Afghanistan. While a quarter of high officer staff of the second biggest army of NATO is arrested, lack of qualified officers appeared.
Furthermore, the German periodical Die Welt has an interesting view on the situation. The resignation of the high military management of the country is not capitulation, as it is tried to be presented. It is a well-thought plan of the generalship. All three heads had to leave their positions due to their age in the near future anyway. Probably the General Staff sends a sign to the government of the country about further resignations and ebbing of the army’s force. Responsibility for it will lie on AKP, Die Welt writes.
We believe it is too early to talk about elimination of military influence on the political life of Turkey. It will happen only if the control under the army will be shifted to the Ministry of Defense and a civil minister will be appointed to head it. To reach this target AKP has to change the constitution. This variant of developments is possible, considering the party’s popularity. Only after the General Staff pales into insignificance as a political force, we will see whether democracy has been a real target of AKP or only an approach to establish new ideology in the country. Is army a preventive factor from total Islamisation and radicalization of Turkey? At the moment, nobody can give an answer.
The head of the European department of VK Orkhan Sattarov.