Turkey under the Rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Aug 9, 2016

By Amb. Uri Bar-Ner

Following the coup attempt, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has taken many measures in order to ensure that the supporters of the coup from all walks of life will be eliminated. The question now is in which direction will President Erdogan guide Turkey following the coup attempt. Will President Erdogan preserve the tradition of Kemal Atatürk of maintaining secular democracy or will he lead Turkey to an Islamic state which will be a partial dictatorship?

President Erdogan is trying to bring the State back to order and he conducted a process of restructuring that Turkey never knew before. He fired and suspended thousands of government employees, military personnel, 118 generals out of 350. He fired 21,000 teachers and 10,000 policemen.

The Education System
President Erdogan is conducting major and significant changes in the education system. This is more significant that any of his actions regarding the judicial system and the army. The struggle over the education system characterizes President Erdogan’s policy since he was first elected to be Prime Minister in 2003. His party suggested laws that would only permit university teachers and students who support the Turkish republic and adhere to keep it as a untied country.

Teachers and students must adhere to an ideology which will support President Erdogan’s concept of special regime.

President Erdogan abolished the law that forbids women to wear Islamic traditional clothes and headscarves in educational institutions.

President Erdogan and Fethullah Gülen:
In 2010, the very close relationship between President Erdogan and Mr. Gülen was disrupted. In 2010, President Erdogan cancelled the vast education system of Fethullah Gülen who had hundreds of schools throughout Turkey. The supreme high education council that was established after the revolution of 1980 (21 members) had wide authority in appointing university presidents (180 universities). Turkey undergoes a big change.

University Lecturers
In January 2016, 1,400 University lecturers were questioned because they signed a memorandum criticizing the brutal war against the Kurds. It looks like following the coup attempt that failed the names of the lecturers who were fired were known ahead of time. Fifteen hundred faculty deans resigned in accordance to the decree of the high council on education and they will be replaced by thousands of lecturers that will support President Erdogan.

The Status of the Army
President Erdogan is trying to make an impression that “the army is our army.” However, he claims that traitors must be detected.

European Union
There is no dialogue between President Erdogan’s administration and the European Union.

The United States
Part of the media accuses the United States that it knew ahead of time about the attempted coup and some elements of the U.S. cooperated with the insurgents.

President Erdogan proposes a deal with the United States that if the United States will extradite Mr. Gülen to Turkey, then Turkey will promise to conduct a democratic regime. President Obama demanded that President Erdogan provide definite proof that Fethullah Gülen was behind the coup attempt.

The United States cannot afford to give up the huge air base of Incirlik in Turkey from which American planes conduct their sorties against Syria and Iraq.

The head of Turkish intelligence already knew on Friday afternoon about the coup attempt and informed President Erdogan only in the evening. President

Erdogan did not fire him because he claims that this is not the time to make changes and stability must be maintained.

Conspiracy
Some elements in the West blame President Erdogan for knowing ahead of time of the coup attempt and he is using it to implement his program of purging.

Chief of Staff
The chief of staff was involved in the revolution. This time he was not involved and refused to partake in the coup as was offered to him by the insurgents. The personal secretary of the Chief of Staff who was considered to be very loyal, participated in the coup attempt.

The Death Sentence
President Erdogan will not reenact the death sentence. It will put him at odds with the U.S. and Europe as well as many elements inside Turkey. The death sentence was abolished in 2004 and since 1986 it was never implemented.

The Refugees
Turkey reached an agreement with the European Union to contain the flow of refugees who are coming from Syria to Europe. In return, the European Union promised to support Turkey with US$6 billion.

The Judicial System
The regime is still searching for elements that cooperated with the insurgents. The judicial system practically collapsed, thousands of judges were fired, and now President Erdogan will have to appoint new judges.

The Army
If the army officers who are loyal to the principles of Kemal Atatürk would have joined the coup attempt, the coup would have been successful. The first division which is in Istanbul did not join the revolutionaries. Due to the coup attempt, the stock exchange in Istanbul went down by 7%.

Economy
However, the Turkish lira remained steady. Until now, Turkey maintained a steady rate of growth in spite of the world recession. The GNP went up in the first part of 2016 by 4.8% mainly because of private consumption that grew immensely because of the millions of refugees that arrived in Turkey. Terror activities in Turkey helped the investments, which Turkey needs badly in order to finance its national deficit. The companies that are associated with Gülen were badly hurt.

The Revolution of 1997
On February 26, 1997, Mr. Demirel and the Chief of Staff put pressure on the Prime Minister of Turkey Mr. Ervakan. He resigned and Mr. Masut Ilmaz was appointed.

The 1960 Revolution
This revolution was conducted against Prime Minister Adnan Menderez who was accused of corruption, operating against democracy, and neglecting the army. He was sentenced to death and was hanged.

The Revolution of 1980
There was a civil war between the right and left. Süleyman Demirel was the Prime Minister. He was forced to resign and he was replaced by Turgut Özal who established a major party called ANAP.

Special Situation
On July 28, 1916 a special situation was declared which is not an emergency situation. On July 28, 2016, the High National Council convened and appointed new generals to replace the ones who were fired.

Possible Elections and Change of the Constitution
It is assumed that Mr. Erdogan will call for new elections in order to strengthen his position. He will do his utmost to change the constitution from a parliamentary system to a presidential one like in the U.S. He will then be a president with vast authority who can rule for 10 years.

Russia
President Erdogan may become closer to Russia. He already apologized for downing the Russian plane in the Sinai last year. Turkey was not happy with the attitude of the United States during the coup. He is also unhappy with the fact that the United States is not supporting Turkey’s battle against the Kurds.

Russia sells to Turkey, gas, arms, and other materials. Turkey buys gas also from Iran. Turkey plans to buy gas from Israel which will be channeled through Turkey to Europe. This will be of immense importance to Israel’s plan to export gas from the huge well of Levethian.

Bombarding the School of Officers
The airplanes that served the insurgents bombarded the officers’ school in Ankara as well as the Parliament. They have killed about 40 officers.

Important Questions:

1. The democratic system: The question is if Turkey will maintain the democratic system, President Erdogan’s activities of massive arrests reduce the chance of Turkey joining the European Union. Even though it is clear that the chances of Turkey to be accepted in the European Union are very low.

2. The refugees: It is not clear whether President Erdogan will continue to support Europe in slowing down the rate of refugees coming from Syria.

3. The army: Will the Turkish army (the largest army in NATO) continue to be an important active part of the Western Alliance?

4. The United States: What will be President Erdogan’s relations with the United States that so far refuses to extradite Mr. Gülen. President Erdogan emphasized in an interview with CNN that the United States has an agreement of bilateral extradition. During the month of August, the Minister of Justice of Turkey will travel to the United States to discuss this issue. The United States will have to decide whether it should export F-35 jets to Turkey from the U.S.

5. Russia: The reconciliation between Turkey and Russia came at a convenient time for President Erdogan. President Erdogan will have to decide whether to continue to rely completely on U.S. arms or to try to diversify the sources. Russia is very important to Turkey because of Turkey’s fight against the Kurds and its battle against Syria. It should be remembered that Turkey is a very important member of NATO.

6. ISIS: One cannot rely on President Erdogan in the war against ISIS. Turkey enabled many individuals to cross Turkey on the way to Syria and to join ISIS. It is not clear to what extent Turkey will be ready to fight ISIS. However, Turkey is facing a terror of threat from ISIS, and at the same time, it is at war against the Kurds.

7. The Kurdish and the Armenian issues: The war against the Kurds is longstanding for many years. Turkey is also facing another very important war against the Armenians. The Armenians were promised at the end of World War I (1917) to have a state but this was never implemented. There are Armenian minorities in Turkey, in Iran, and in Syria. If an Armenian state will be established, it will be at the expense of territories in Iran, Syria, and Turkey.

8. Israel: The new situation in Turkey requires from Israel to conduct its policy with a great deal of carefulness. Israel should not be seen as supporting any of the sides in this conflict. Israel maintains a very careful policy and stated that it supports “democracy in Turkey.”

Reconciliation: Israel should pursue and complete the process of reconciliation with Turkey in accordance with the agreement that was signed recently. The internal problems in Turkey should not influence the process of reconciliation between Turkey and Israel.

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