The unsuccessful coup in Turkey is a matter of great relief to the Turkish people and world at large. The coup has been widely condemned even the HDP party and the government of Iran have condemned the coup attempt.
Why did the coup take place? There are domestic and regional factors behind it. President Erdogan in the recent time has adopted certain domestic policies which have not pleased a section of the military; an institution which feels every reason to interfere in the affairs of the state if it feels that government policies are not in right direction. Erdogan’s dictatorial behavior seems to have affected a section in military in negative terms. Turkey is faced with a liberal-conservative dichotomy in which the President has taken a conservative stand. Turkey has shifted much in this respect from the days of 1923 of Kamal Pasha when reforms were made. At present even the President speaks in favour of conservative ideas which differ much from the early years of its establishment as a modern state. This development is very important due to the fact that the country is located in the region where the instability is a common thing due to conservative ideas. From Yemen, Iraq to Syria everywhere the political instability is visible. Turkey has involved itself in this regional war with conservative ideas.
The region is at boil and Erdogan has attempted to exploit it for his own political interests. Turkish policy towards the Syria is a major point where it has acted as a typical US ally. Its policies are largely governed by the USA whenever the regional issues are concentrated upon. Turkish support to anti Assad forces in Syria has imprint of US. The diplomatic standoff with Russia is another example where both countries had moved towards the negative zone after the downing of a Russian plane by Turkey. These policies may not have been liked by a group in military which came up with the illegal decision to overthrow the democratically elected government of Erdogan. These forces may lie low but are not eliminated as Erdogan has himself indicated. President Erdogan in the background of such developments needs to focus on certain issues. One such issue relates to the emergence of Hizmet movement led by Fethullah Gulen. Its leader has been blamed by the Turkish government as the main guiding force behind the coup. If it is so then government needs to find out the reasons of coming military or some section of society under its influence which some may find more modern and secular. President Erdogan will have to search out the function of his government in wider scale as to why such ideology is gaining ground in the country and what best can be done. It appears that within the country ideological polarization is taking place which may take deep roots in the time to come. Erdogan has overlooked this fact; perhaps the regional milieu is much impactful and the conservative approach has dominated all the major players in the region. Erdogan will have to craft a mild policy to save the democracy in the country.
In several countries military has become quite strong and wants to participate in the political process. Pakistan, Thailand, Myanmar and Turkey are some of its example. The involvement of military in the political processing is always dangerous to democracy because the basic philosophy of military is always against to the tenets of democracy. Whenever the military participates in effective manner in the political field; a new type of political system emerges in which the military-administrative nexus becomes predominant and the basic freedoms of the people are curtailed. Pakistan is a classic example of it where four times military rule was imposed and destroyed the roots of the democracy. Turkey is no exception where military if comes to the power as was aimed by its small section in the recent coup then fundamental freedoms were to be the first victim. President Erdogan overlooked the simmering in a section of rank and file of the military.
The democracy rests upon certain premises; the biggest is the liberal approach of the top leader who should never be so exclusive and authoritarian that people start distrusting the same. As happening in USA where due to ultra radical approach to the political issues the Republican candidate Donald Trump is losing the people’s support.
Recently Erdogan has shown shift in its foreign policy which is now more accommodative at the regional level. The same need is also required at the domestic level where his government needs to take note of the troubles in the society and military. As Greek philosopher Aristotle said that revolution is always caused when some policies of the leader cause the disenchantment. Erdogan needs to modify its regional policies as well the hard stand on certain issues. He will have to follow the path as founders had enlightened to the Turkish land. Though much has changed since those days but a shift from conservatism in domestic politics, abandoning the aggressive foreign policy and keeping military and anti democratic ideologies at bay is needed in Turkey. Erdogan is key to it. If military increases the control in anyway then region may go more into troubles. In this respect role of US is also quite critical which is the closest ally of Turkey and has not taken worthwhile policy decisions with respect to the region and Turkey. It should work for peace in the region with Russia and allow Turkey to be able to deal the domestic and regional problems. Otherwise it may lose its close ally in the region as happened with it in 1979 when it lost Iran.
Dr. Vivek Kumar Srivastava is Vice Chairman CSSP, Consultant CRIEPS,e email@example.com