Turkey: the Failed Coup d’Etat And Its Consequences

Turkey became the focus of global events since the failed coup d’etat on July 15, 2016. Turkey will not be the same after that date. Heavy consequences are expected to be seen domestically and internationally.

Poorly designed coup d’etat

These lines are not going to judge the coup ethically, since all sorts of coups are doomed. A “conspiracy theory” flourished after the coup claiming that Erdogan organized the event to get full capacities to act against his opponents. I oppose this theory since Turkey is a complicated society and Erdogan himself went weaker after the coup. A parallel to the 1991 putsch in Russia would support that assumption: at that time Gorbachev did not win and the Soviet Union was dissolved, despite the fact that the coup failed as well.

Seven non-existing preconditions in the latest coup d'etat

The four previous coups in the years 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997 succeeded and the latest one failed, since the preconditions for success were not there. Here are seven reasons for the failure of the latest coup attempt.

First: it lacked the unity among the military institutions. The news that the army chief of staff was bombed during the attempt clearly indicated that there was a split in army’s unity vis-à-vis the coup.

Second: No high-ranking army generals were proclaimed as the leaders of the coup attempt; therefore the coup credibility was questioned from the beginning. General Çemal Gürcel was the one in 1960, General Memduh Tağmas in 1971, General Kenan Evrin in 1980 and a group of high-ranking officers, such as İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, Çevik Bir, Teoman Koman, Çetin Doğan, Necdet Timur, and Erol Özkasnak, led the coup in 1997.

Third: No public support was there in the latest attempt, in contrast to the previous ones. The three opposition parties represented in the Turkish Parliament opposed the coup d’etat from the beginning.

Forth: People behind the latest coup did not have the Parliament and high ranking figures under their control. President Erdogan and Prime Minister Yildirim were free to gather public support.

Fifth: No control over the media was there with the non-influential TRT station announcing the coup d’etat and then reversing it later.

Sixth: The absence of coordination with the branches of the “Deep State” was clear in the failed attempt, since the police forces confronted the army units on the streets.

Seventh: The mobilized armored forces involved in the failed attempt were not enough to control the streets and strategic locations.

Erdogan’s choices

It seems that now Erdogan has to choose between two options:

A. Reconciliation with the opposition represented in the Turkish Parliament, since it opposed the coup from the beginning. That would stabilize the antagonistic milieu in Turkey and provide Erdogan with a better image abroad. Sure, in this scenario Erdogan’s dreams of a presidential Turkey would fade. Erdogan showed his instinct of political survival short before the failed attempt by reversing his regional policies and restored relations with Russia and Israel to minimize the regional risks for his power. Perhaps this very instinct could push him to another conciliatory scenario with the opposition parties.

B. Confrontation. Erdogan will most probably use the failed coup d’etat as an excuse to suppress his opponents in order to achieve full control over the political system. In that scenario, the polarization will increase rapidly within Turkey, bringing risks of instability with it. The demobilization of thousands of officers and sacking of judges, the crackdown on academics and press following the failed coup, are clear signs of Erdogan's intentions. Erdogan even called for early elections to achieve his goal in changing the constitution toward a presidential system by capitalizing on the failed coup to gain more seats in the parliament needed to change the constitution without a referendum (367 seats of the total of 550 seats).

Consequences for Turkey’s foreign policy

Erdogan is strongly annoyed at the European Union and the US administration. He believes that they did not give appropriate support to his elected government during the coup. It is clear that no improvement in US-Turkish relations could be expected till the presidential elections in the United States. As in the coming months Erdogan will be busy with his goals in Turkey, the relations between Turkey and Russia could improve more and more.

Turkey is a NATO member-state since 1952; its international alliance is clearly defined with the western world and its foreign trade as well. It is very difficult to imagine Turkey moving away from that alliance, but it is reasonable to predict that Turkey would move closer to Russia in the coming months. Erdogan has his own ambitions and knows well the difficult restrictions. The pipelines for Russian natural gas to the Mediterranean Sea could be seen as an indicator of how far Erdogan can go in his rapprochement with Russia.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.