State of emergency a test for the Turkish government

State of emergency a test for the Turkish government

After chairing two long meetings on July 20, President Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the government had declared a state of emergency (SoE) in Turkey in the wake of the failed coup attempt on July 15.

In his statement at the end of a cabinet meeting following the National Security Board (MGK) meeting, Erdoğan said the SoE would last for the next three months to “restore democracy,” which the “parallel gang” - or the followers in the military of Fethullah Gülen, the Islamist ideologue living in the U.S – had tried to bring down.

Further elaboration came from Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmuş during a press conference in Ankara on July 21 and from Justice Minister Bekir Bozdağ in the subsequent hours during his presentation of the SoE declaration in parliament. Another deputy PM, Mehmet Şimşek, also touched on the subject while speaking about the economy in an interview with private broadcaster NTV.

From those three elaborations we can summarize the pledge of the government as follows: 

1) The SoE will be exclusively used in order to repair the damage of the coup attempt to the Turkish system. It will not be used, as especially the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) has objected, to push for economic decisions that would be exempt from oversight by the Constitutional Court. It will also not be used to impose capital controls, for example, as feared by investors.

2) The main aim of the SoE is to “clear all” Gülenists - or as the government calls them the “Fethullahist Terror Organization/Parallel State Structure” (FETÖ/PDY) - from public offices in order to prevent them from making the same move again. For that purpose, a change in the personnel regime in Turkey and also some closures in the judicial system, in order to stop them from being given back to their offices, might be possible.

3) The government aims to reach its targets within “45-50 days” of the start of the SoE, despite the three-month duration. This is also an answer to calls from the European Union to end the SoE as soon as possible.

4) The SoE means limitations to rights and freedoms. For example, the police detention period will be doubled, from 24 to 48 hours for individual criminal suspicion, and from four days to eight days in cases of organized crime suspicion. The European Convention of Human Rights will be suspended for the duration of the SoE, “like in the case of France,” Kurtulmuş underlined. 

5) After Erdoğan’s clear statement about an intelligence failure in countering the coup attempt before it had started, the government is likely to take important measures, perhaps restructuring the Turkish security system, including intelligence, military and the police force.

It is going to be a serious test for Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım’s Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government to keep those pledges and not use the SoE for purposes other than eliminating the effects of the coup attempt and restoring the system. There is an overwhelming sentiment within Turkish society against the military’s intervention and in favor of democratic life, despite all its flaws. One should consider the men and women marching on foot against the tanks and guns bare-handed, while political parties in parliament continued their session despite being bombed by pro-coup forces with the jets they had seized.

There is another point. The social democratic CHP and the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) did not approve the SoE motion from the AK Parti government, unlike the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). But instead of denouncing the CHP and HDP as pro-coup traitors, the AK Parti spokesman in parliament said they sympathized with the rights and freedoms-oriented objections of those parties, but in order to fight this anti-democratic move and eliminate its traces they had to declare the SoE. This is not typical for the Turkish Parliament.

Meanwhile, when the CHP said it wanted to organize a mass rally like the AK Parti supporters in Istanbul on July 24, the government not only welcomed it but also said public transport in the city on that day would be free (as has been the case for the last few days), in order to encourage people to attend that anti-coup move.

If that tendency continues, it could prove the ancient wisdom that there might be something good in every evil. This mood could pave the way for reconciliation to strengthen the parliamentary democratic system in Turkey, instead of centralizing power in one hand with fewer checks and balances. The next three months will be a test for this as well.