History repeats itself, and people learn from it and somehow manage to emerge stronger than before. The same cannot be said for the military coup that shook the nation of Turkey on 15th July. After three unsuccessful coup attempts by military in 1960, 1971 and 1980, this one, despite its failure, was by far the bloodiest of them all; at least 290 people were killed and more than a thousand were injured. In Ankara, the Turkish Parliament and the Presidential Palace were bombed. Shots were also heard near major airports in Ankara and Istanbul.
However, the nation is not new to controversies or such coups that are in the name of collective good.
Though elected majorly by the people, Tayyip Erdogan’s tenure reeks of an authoritarian regime, which includes reformation of Turkish schools to include more Islamic education. Moreover, his moves to silence journalists, academics, and certain speech on social media have drawn international condemnation, and questioned the ideologies bought by his Party in the nation.
Although the coup attempt was unexpected, military coups are not entirely strange affairs to Turkey. The Turkish military has done this, in part, because it has long seen itself as the defender of Kemalism: the secular and democratic principles of the nation’s founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.
Erdogan is known for many things, but a Kemalist he is not. However, Kemalism has either just breathed its last breath, as its proponents in the military are about to be purged in the aftermath of the coup, or has long been marginalized within the Army, and nobody noticed its slow death until now.
Though his tenure has been crucial in providing regional security at a time when West Asia is in turmoil, instability at such an hour would not interest anyone. His success in taking back the reins of government is good for both Turkey and the larger West Asian region, which largely includes Syria, Iraq and Iran. The turmoil in these regions is known by many, while inflicted by some, read ISIS.
However, the failed coup exposes the weakness of Mr. Erdogan’s regime. The fact that it was not a minor revolt by a few soldiers, but an uprising by thousands of troops, raises serious questions about the coherence of the Turkish state. Mr. Erdogan has contributed to the weakening of the state in many ways- his disastrous foreign policy that has worsened the security situation; forced Islamisation that has sharpened the contradiction between the Islamist and secular sections; and the push to rewrite the Constitution to award more powers to himself.
To date, more than 6,000 members of the military and the judiciary have been arrested. 2,839 soldiers are held in prison, while 2,745 judges are facing arrest, much to the condemnation of rest of the world.
Thousands walked on the streets to stand with the pro- Erdogan stance of stomping on the military coup. However, this support was for democracy and not for the discussed leader, people in thousands want to abide by the constitution rather than forceful means.
Tayyip Erdogan could see the people’s commitment to democracy and use the crisis as an opportunity to reconsider his dictatorial policies. Or he could use the military revolt as a pretext to purge more of his enemies and get what he always wanted, which is a more powerful executive presidency. His choice will guide the future of Turkey’s democracy.
His choice will determine whether he wishes to run on an authoritative front, like many of his predecessors, or does he wish to adhere to the constitutional laws that would bring out a fair and just treatment. A treatment not meant for personal gain, but for the collective good of the nation.