Marking July 15 with a democratic sense
Citizens braved tanks driven by coup soldiers on the night of July 15, 2016 at the cost of their lives.
Turkey will mark on July 15 the second anniversary of the bloody coup attempt at the hands of the Fethullahist Terror Organization (FETÖ) that left around 250 people dead and more than 2,000 wounded behind. Coup plotters did not hesitate to fly F-16s over the Turkish capital and bomb the Parliament as well as the presidential compound, to attack other key state offices and to open fire on unarmed civilians. This evil attempt by scores of Gülenist officers within the army could be thwarted thanks to tens of thousands of people who hit the streets on that night to stand against these plotters at the cost of their lives. It goes without saying that it was the discernment of the Turkish people that protected the democratic institutions, the Parliament and the government, on that very night.
This brutal attack on Turkish democracy had created temporary unity and a sense of solidarity among different political parties and social groups in the days that followed the failed coup. The necessity to fight against FETÖ and its undercover members within the key state bodies had become a common priority for all of them. It kicked the launch of emergency state on July 20, 2016 which will be lifted two years now next weekend.
An analysis of what we have been through since the failed coup, however, tells a rather another story. The alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) was launched only a few months after the failed coup, which paved the way for a set of comprehensive constitutional amendments that shift the administrative system from the parliamentary to the executive-presidency system.
Only nine months after the coup attempt, Turkey went to referendum and narrowly approved governmental changes. 14 months after the referendum, the AKP-MHP alliance brought Turkey to snap presidential and parliamentary polls that resulted in President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s win. Both referendum and June 24 polls were held under heavy conditions of the emergency rule. Former co-chairs of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and a dozen of pro-Kurdish lawmakers as well as a main opposition, lawmaker Enis Berberoğlu were arrested over terror charges in this period.
Thus, Turkey’s historic and radical transformation has taken place under extraordinary conditions and in an environment where many of fundamental freedoms were restricted.
These two years did also observe serious human rights violations and undemocratic moves due to abuse of emergency rule. Half of the decree laws issued by the government were not at all related with the fight against FETÖ. There were serious claims that tens of thousands of people who have been either detained, prosecuted or dismissed were not directly involved with the criminal aspects of FETÖ.
The deterioration in democratic norms did negatively affect Turkey’s foreign relations and economic balances, too. Turkey’s image in the West has been severely damaged and has led to de facto suspension of its EU accession process.
On the other hand, the ignorance and indifference of many of EU countries on what had happened on the July 15 night have further troubled ties. After a long turbulence, relations nowadays tend to recover with said countries but leaving a ruin behind.
Economy is another area on which direct impacts of undemocratic trends -that nixed the existence of rule law- had visible consequences. The plunge of the national currency, the decrease in the amount of free direct investment, the deterioration in Turkey’s macroeconomic balances are just a few results of this period.
It’s under these conditions that Turkey is entering a new era under Erdoğan’s rule and is about to mark second anniversary of July 15. There are concerns that this new model would further distance Turkey from the democratic order as the role of the Parliament as the main checks-and-balances mechanism is now diminished.
The new government, which held its first meeting on July 13, should better realize that the lack of democracy could jeopardize political, economic and social order in the country. Lifting emergency rule next week would constitute a good opportunity for the re-installation of democratic order in Turkey. Otherwise, aforementioned problems risk to be amounted in the coming period.
The whole nation will remember the July 15 martyrs with great respect on the second anniversary. It’s our duty to underline democracy and universal values for which the Turkish people sacrificed their lives at that night.