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Turkey is Typing….Is Turkey Heading for Another Coup?

Increased tensions over the Turkish presidential elections result in more protests and even statements from the military alluding to a possible coup if the current Presidential candidate Abdullah Gul becomes elected. What is a country to do? As many of the Turkish bloggers point out, sit by their televisions and watch. Watch the elections proceedings, watch the film footage of the protests in Istanbul, watch for the signs of the change to come. This week's Turkey is Typing focuses on the waiting of the Turkish people; waiting for the future.

The Elections

Erkan's Field Diary talks about the media coverage of the Turkish presidential elections:

An unlikely time for high ratings but it is an extraordinary moment. After the last night's media event, that is BJK-FB derby, here comes another media event: People in the middle of a Friday stuck to their TV sets and watch the live coverage of presidential election sessions in the Turkish Parliament.

According to what I hear from the concerned parties 367 vs. 184 struggle is a lost one from the outset legal-technical-wise. Main opposition party (CHP) claims that there must be at least 367 MPs to start the session but the governing party insists on 184. They base their arguments on some constitutional articles but according what I understand the latter is right.

In Turkey, the President is not elected by the people but by the Parliament. And the current ruling party has been known to have Islamic leanings in their government style which does not fit too well with political parties with a more secular approach. One way to boycott the choice of Presidential candidate was for members of Parliament to simply not show up for the first round of elections so that the legality of the election could be contested. Mavi Boncuk gives information on just how long the legal process could take on contesting the elections:

Constitutional Court President Tülay Tuğcu earlier said if an application to call off the presidential election was made to the court it would take only a couple of days to issue a ruling. However Deputy President Haşim Kılıç stated in a recent declaration that the court might need more time in order to give its members and rapporteurs the opportunity to examine the situation in detail.

Kılıç said according to the law their rapporteurs had the right to request up to a month to examine parliamentary bylaws and related constitutional provisions to decide whether the number of deputies who participated in the voting session was adequate.

Talk Turkey illuminates us on the process of the elections and gives an excellent example of the what the elections in Turkey are like in comparison.

Imagine a vacancy occurs in the Supreme Court. Also imagine it is a few months before the Presidential elections. Imagine that the ‘lame duck’ President nominates a replacement justice. Then imagine the opposition party threatens to boycott the nomination process and asks for the presidential race to be moved up. The reason: the political leaning of the country may have changed since the last election to favor the opposition. Therefore, any appointment should be considered based on the new election's outcome and the thereby the will of the people.

In reality, Senators are elected every six years, Representatives every two years, And Presidents every four years. It's called checks and balances. Those are the rules of the game and they're not changed if the outcome doesn't look good for the home team during mathematical oddities.

The ‘imagine’ scenario above is playing out in Turkey right now. The general elections are a few months away. Although highly unlikely, a large numbers of seats may shift between the governing and opposition parties. The last general election was five years ago. But the current president's seven-year term ends on May 16. (The president is elected by the Congress.) And accordingly, a replacement candidate has been introduced by the current majority party.

The Protests

Lacking the ability to directly comment on the Presidential elections, the Turkish people took to the streets. Many bloggers gave accounts of the protests, from Me and Others describing the people watching to Istanbul Street Style covering the fashion choices of the participants. Idil who writes for Ignore Me If You Can and Metroblogging:Istanbul gave the most complete coverage of the protests, describing the day as “the most powerful event of my life”. If you get a chance I highly recommend looking at her Metroblogging:Istanbul post, it has a nice narrative of the protest march and an unusual editor's note:

I realize some might feel the need to comment negatively regarding the actual rally/protest. This isn't the medium for it. What you find here is an account of the day. My day. I tried to explain what happened the best I could because it was a historical day for Turkey, it was the biggest rally in the history of this republic and is a day to remember.
If you're going to go all political and negative on me, please do not bother. Thank you for your attention :)

The Coup?

In the course of Turkey's history, the Military has intervened in cases where it has felt that the government has not gone the way “it should”, Talk Turkey described the military generals as the “the protectors of ‘secularism”. Regardless of what your view of Turkish history is, there is a real danger of the Turkish military intervening in the Turkish Presidential elections as Mavi Boncuk illustrates:

The military issued a memorandum-like statement saying that Islamic reactionary activities were expanding in scope and vowing that it would fulfill its “lawful duties” to protect the state. The statement came on Friday night, hours after Parliament held the first round of the presidential election. In a statement released late on Friday night, the General Staff says it is following with ‘concern’ the debate over secular system in the presidential elections and would ‘openly display its position and attitudes when it becomes necessary’

In a statement posted on its Web site, the General Staff said it was following with “concern” the debate over Turkey's secular system in the presidential elections and would “openly display its position and attitudes when it becomes necessary.”

What does this mean for Democracy?

Athanasia's Daily while stating that it is the democratic thing to do for the protests in Istanbul to happen, cautions that the situation in Turkey could take a “dangerous” turn:

So no one knows what will happen. But it is obvious that a large amount of people is definitely do not want to see a president whose wife's wears turban and who has anti-secularist tendencies whereas AKP argues that it is their democratic right to elect the president. Tomorrow there will be another meeting in Çağlayan, Istanbul to protest AKP and their insisting policies on presidential elections.
It seems like Turkey is about to divide into two as secularists and Islamists. Do I need to say that I dont like this and think that it is dangerous?

Erkan's Field Diary had an interesting interpretation of the results of the protests in Istanbul:

Militarist-Secularist-Leftists to rally in Istanbul, said JTW news and at the level of organizers, I would certainly agree with this observation. At the level of lay participants, I tend to think that this is a progressive act towards democratizations. Most of those 1 million attendants desired a military coup and in this sense they have nothing to do with the progress of democratic rights in this country. But most of them so far relied on state institutions and had never thought of taking to streets and acting instances of direct democracy.

And Talk Turkey weighs in on the lack of democratic ideals in a military coup:

According to this morning's reports, the main opposition leader ‘Mr. Baykal’ says the country will be going down a dangerous path if the Constitutional Court does not cancel the Presidential election and force early general elections. I wonder what the opposite would lead to. I wonder if Turkey is not going down a dangerous path already. And I also wonder if thousands of people will sit by silently if the court and the generals ‘elect’ to cancel democracy. By the way, isn't Baykal suggesting or ‘influencing’ the court by his ‘vicious’ statements. I mean isn't he the one responsible for this mess in a way anyway? What has he been doing the past five years? Waiting for this opportunity I guess.

What is in store for Turkey? Your guess is as good as mine, and feel free to comment here as to what you think will happen. As for me….I think that I will be like the majority of Turks and take a wait and see attitude.

3 comments

  • sadly some people believe in democracy only when it benefit them , once an Islamic party is winning democracy is thrown out of the window

  • Unfortunately, the positive reforms and results that have been accomplished over the past five years, no matter what your political allegiance is, have been erased quickly over the past week.

    Now the whole can see clearly that there is no such thing as ‘moderate’ Islam. Heck, even the ones subscribing to it have a problem with owning it!

  • Bea

    While I take the moderate side of things, I believe that Turks are finally finding their voice and hope they continue on. I just hope that the violence going on right now diminishes because while intolerance does seem to be on the rise, the majority here are still very tolerant, friendly and warm. It will be interesting to see what surprises the election will bring.

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