Failed coup in Turkey has far-reaching significance

Source:Global Times Published: 2016/7/16 21:10:08

An attempted coup in Turkey on Friday ended in failure. The government of President Recep Erdogan got hold of the situation. The coup has led to the deaths of over 100 people and arrest of more than 3000 military personnel, including high-ranking military officers. Turkey has seen four coups from 1960 to 1997 and all succeeded. The latest is the only one where the government survived.

Analysts said that the Internet played a decisive role in the Erdogan government succeeding in mobilizing citizens to come out in the streets. The armed forces had seized a TV station. They were only one step away from success.

Turkey is the most secular Islamic country, but just like authoritarian regimes like Egypt, the military plays a special role in Turkey. In those countries, the military is susceptible to Western influence.  The military is a major force in promoting and ensuring secularization. When the elected government veers towards a theocracy, the military will step in. And the West usually will take an acquiescent attitude toward the coup.

Erdogan blamed radical religious leader Fethullah Gulen who has lived in exile in the US for manipulating the coup. Based on this, certain part of the Turkish military served as a bullet for traditional religious forces this time around, assuming a totally different political role from the past. But the claim hasn't been confirmed.

As of press time, the situation remained uncertain. The influence the coup will have on domestic politics and geopolitics remains to be seen.   

A few things are clear. Turkey is far from completing its secular movement that began a century ago. The country is still wavering between accepting Western political institutions and defending traditional Islamic culture. Different forces don't always follow rules.

As a NATO member which is also an Islamic country, Turkey is likewise a hub of the Middle East. While its nexus function in NATO was emphasized during the Cold War era, today's Turkey is more subjected to the impact of the Middle East.  The Iraq War, the civil strife in Syria and the rise of IS have exerted a deep influence on the country, which has fallen heavily to terrorism. Uncertainty of its future direction has compounded the disorientation of the entire Middle East.

In this failed coup, the military lost out to the democratically-elected government and the tanks couldn't win over the unarmed public. This might suggest the Middle East is undergoing a fundamental change. Instead of a color revolution, the military suffered a heavy blow. It was unprecedented to see soldiers surrender to the public with their arms up.

Major Western powers have expressed their support to Turkey's constitutional order and criticized the coup. But their real attitude is more complex than this, given their disapproval of Erdogan and close association with Turkey's military.

Observers widely believe that Erdogan will further consolidate his power after foiling the coup. A political purge will be inevitable as he has stated he would punish the participants.  This coup will not be the end to the country's political woes. Rather, it might signal a more intense political struggle. This major Islamic country is facing a daunting challenge.

Posted in: Editorial

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