Turkey’s Failed Bureaucratic Coup

Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Fethullah Gülen
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (left) and Fethullah Gülen. Photo: Hayatin Kendisi Burada/Picasa.

ANKARA – Last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan intensified his government’s response to the corruption investigations that have been roiling the country since December, restructuring the leadership of the judiciary and police. But it would be a mistake to view this as a fight between the executive and the judiciary, or as an attempt to cover up charges that have led to the resignation of three ministers. What is at issue is the law-enforcement authorities’ independence and impartiality. Indeed, amid charges of fabricated evidence, Erdoğan now says that he is not opposed to retrials for senior military officers convicted of plotting to overthrow his government.

The recent developments reflect the widening rift between Erdoğan’s government and the Gülen movement, led by Fethullah Gülen, a self-exiled Islamic preacher currently residing near Philadelphia. The Gülen movement was an important backer of the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its efforts to establish civilian control over the military during the AKP’s first two terms in office. Now, however, the movement appears to have been plotting a coup of its own.

Regional Stability

After “Worthy Solitude”: Turkey is Backpedaling on its Foreign Policy

Ahmet Davutoglu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey, speaks at CSIS in February 2012, courtesy of CSIS/Flickr

Even the supporters of Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are disappointed with the results from Ahmet Davutoğlu’s foreign policy. Only 53 percent of AKP voters agree with his Syria policy; in total, 56 percent of Turks are opposed to it. However, not only with regards to Syria, Turkey’s overall foreign policy has hit the brick wall. There has only been very little progress in other areas as well: whether it is Cyprus, Greece, or Armenia – none of Turkey’s “old” problems with its non-Muslim neighbors have been resolved.

Moreover, relations with Muslim neighbors Iran and Iraq – with the exception of Kurdish northern Iraq – as well as Egypt are tense. In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the AKP has lost its past influence over the involved parties. Neither Israel, nor the PLO or Hamas look to Ankara anymore. Little is left from Turkey’s stance as a regional power.

Old Wine in New Wineskins: Elections in Cyprus and their ‘Impact’ on Negotiations

Cyprus flag. Photo: Nicolas Raymond/flickr.

Cyprus is currently envisaging remarkable development. Governments changed in both parts of the island amidst economic troubles that call for drastic reforms. A casual observer might find that a new opportunity arises from all the turmoil. For the first time in Cypriot History both governments are led by, at least former, supporters of a final solution to the Cyprus problem.

The new President of the Republic of Cyprus, Nicos Anastasiadis, was one of the few Greek Cypriot politicians, who supported the Annan-Plan, a comprehensive solution plan that failed to gain Greek Cypriot public support in the 2004 referendum. Özkan Yorgancioğlu, the new Turkish Cypriot Prime minister represents the Cumhuriyeti Türk Partisi, a party that equally supported the UN-blue print in the referendum that a majority support amongst Turkish Cypriots.

The Coup in Egypt Strikes a Blow for Turkey’s Position in the Middle East

Anti-Morsi Protest, 28 June
Anti-Morsi Protest in Egypt, 28 June. Image: Wikipedia.

Turkey has firmly condemned the military coup in Egypt which led to the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood-dominated government. In the first days following the coup, Ankara was at pains to convince the international community (including the UN, the United States, the European Union and the Arab states) to pressure the Egyptian army into re-instating Morsi as president or at least to condemn the military for staging an assault on democracy. As these attempts proved unsuccessful, Ankara criticised the European Union for applying double standards in its evaluation of political transformation in its neighbourhood. The Egyptian coup is currently the main topic on the agenda for Turkish politicians. Numerous demonstrations of support for the toppled Egyptian government have been witnessed in Turkey.

Iran, Turkey, and the Non-Arab Street

Protestors clash with Turkish riot policemen on the way to Taksim Square in Istanbul on June 5, 2013

To Western eyes, Middle East politics have again been stood on their head. Iran’s theocratic mullahs allowed the election of Hassan Rowhani, a man who announced in his first speech as President-elect that his victory is “the victory of wisdom, moderation, and awareness over fanaticism and bad behavior.”

Iranians, apparently surprised that the candidate whom a majority of them had backed (over six harder-line candidates) had won, poured into the streets and hailed a victory “for the people.” To be sure, it was a carefully controlled election: all candidates who might actually have challenged Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei’s authority were disqualified in advance. But, within those limits, the government allowed the people’s votes to be counted.