Ex-PM Çiller claims attempt to force army brass to retire during Feb 28 process

Ex-PM Çiller claims attempt to force army brass to retire during Feb 28 process

ANKARA – Anadolu Agency
Ex-PM Çiller claims attempt to force army brass to retire during Feb 28 process

The trial kicked off on Sept. 2 at the Ankara Courthouse. DHA photo

Former Prime Minister Tansu Çiller has said she sought to force Turkey’s top military brass to resign following their 1997 ultimatum in an attempt to nip what became known as the “post-modern coup” in the bud but that her coalition partner, Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan, refused.

“I met with Erbakan and told him that was my first choice and that what needed to be done was to consign the chief of staff and commanders-in-chief to retirement. ‘The president won’t sign [the decree]; we will be damaged,’ he replied,” Çiller said during today’s hearing of a continuing trial into the post-modern coup, which is also known as the Feb. 28 process.

The then-chief of General Staff, retired Gen. İsmail Hakkı Karadayı, stands as the top suspect in the military intervention that ultimately forced the late leader of the Welfare Party (RP), Erbakan, to resign after a meeting of the National Security Council (MGK) on Feb. 28, 1997.

Çiller, who became Turkey’s first – and to date only – female prime minister in 1993 and leader of the junior coalition partner during the coup period, the True Parth Party (DYP), is considered by prosecutors as one of the leading victims in the case, along with former Interior Minister Meral Akşener. 

Following Erbakan’s refusal to dismiss the army’s top brass, Çiller said she had proposed to go to early elections.

Çiller said Erbakan rejected her proposal, saying, “They won’t let us participate in the elections and will open a trial against our parties while social tension will rise.” She also emphasized that a closure case was ultimately opened against the RP.

She also criticized former President Süleyman Demirel, from whom she took over as the head of the DYP, for giving the task of forming a new government to a party who had a minority of seats in the Parliament and for “failing the national will.”

Çiller said civilian associations acted arm-in-arm with the army to precipitate the collapse of the RP-DYP coalition.

‘I gave up the prime minister’s office’

Çiller also told the court during her testimony that she abandoned her office to “save Turkey from military tutelage.”

“I even given up of the prime minister’s office to clear Turkey’s way, save it from military tutelage and [contribute] to the establishment of democracy,” Çiller said.

“I had to fight with enemies of democracy which can fling any slander and can see everything as permissible in order to come to power,” she said.

The turmoil lasted many months as the military carried out an overt campaign against the coalition government under Erbakan. The party was banned following a ruling of the Constitutional Court in 1998. 

Çiller quit the DYP following the 2002 elections as the party could not overcome the 10 percent threshold. She has not returned to politics since, while the DYP reverted to the name of the “Democrat Party,” in an historical allusion to the ruling party that was closed following the 1960 coup and whose legacy it openly attempt to represent over the years. It merged in 2009 with its once-biggest rival, the Motherland Party (ANAP).