The end of the army-centered state

The end of the army-centered state

The Republic of Turkey was founded with the army at its center. No, not only as an ideological carrier, the army was at the center of the state functionally; all the remaining public institutions and services were designed according to the needs of the army. 

We may find this way of founding of the republic as “normal.” For a nation that conducted a liberation war for its independence, and that has ended an invasion, it is only normal for it to prioritize the defense of the country. 

It was so military and defense centered that in the first years factories were built far away from the ports so they remained outside the range of enemy ships and railroad routes were determined by the military.

The problem emerged as the army in time undertook the role of the carrier of the not-so-clear Kemalist ideology, which is regarded as the “founding philosophy of the republic.” It also assumed the role of a political party above political parties and it started to fine tune society. Otherwise, nobody was complaining about the army-centered state, until 1960. 

The army’s ideological intervention in 1960, establishing the military tutelage institutions and later, despite this tutelage, the military coup in Sept. 12, 1980, restructuring the entire system were all in our political debates. But even those who focus on civilization and civilian control over the military were not mentioning the central position of the army in the state structure.  

The failed coup on July 15 is in many ways a milestone. Now, the government and the president are transforming the army-centered state to a non-army-centered state. 

Actually, what are they doing exactly? What will be put at the center vacated by the army? Today, we see that the steps being taken to restructure the state are mainly done with the opportunity granted under the state of emergency regime with the authority to issue governmental decrees.  

Although an entire public reform is not in sight yet, the force commands put under the rule of the Defense Ministry and the downgrading of the general staff from a command center to a coordinator do not mean the end of the army-centered state, but apparently this is what is coming next. 

Do not be misled by the fact that whatever is done with governmental decrees will need the approval of parliament in the end; the government cannot and should not conduct the restructuring of the state alone. It should consult the opposition in these matters and not only for their opinions, as their contributions should absolutely be sought. We should not repeat the mistake we made at the founding of the republic; we should not shut our doors to pluralism. It was the mentality of “we know the best; we already have a majority in the parliament” that, after 90 years, brought us to the night of July 15. 

We should put at the center of our restructured state the venue where the sovereignty of the nation first emerged: Parliament. 

The opposition, particularly the Republican People’s Party (CHP), should not confuse a strong parliament with the parliamentarian system; they are not the same. Regardless of our governing system being parliamentarian or presidential, the power and authority of parliament should be at a central position.

How can we make parliament and its deputies stronger? How can we save them from the custody of the leader? This parliament should address this question; the government and the opposition should both prioritize this.