Time to open a new page in Turkey

Time to open a new page in Turkey

The failed coup attempt of July 15 has somehow triggered an unprecedented mood of political moderation - at least in the brief period since then. 

The coup attempt took place at a time when political antagonism in society was escalating. There was no single issue that all four parties in parliament could agree on. However, on the night of the coup attempt, within the first hour of it and without even understanding who was behind it or why, all opposition parties issued statements denouncing the move and expressing support for the democratic system. The parliament did not stop its work, even as the building was under bombardment by jets seized by the pro-coup pilots. MPs even agreed on a joint statement condemning the coup attempt. 

The people had already started to take to the streets even before President Tayyip Erdoğan called on them to resist the plotters via private broadcaster CNN Türk. But after that it turned into a public movement involving people from all walks of life and political tendencies, not just the supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti), despite premature reporting in the Western media that the military had taken over with no popular objection.

By the time the main bulk of the military had sided with the government and began fighting to suppress the pro-coup forces, also denouncing them as Gülenists, the plotters had already lost the game.

A promising political mood of moderation still lingers in the air. Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım made separate joint statements of unity and calm with main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli after the momentum of the plot was crushed. President Erdoğan congratulated parliament after the voting on the three-month state of emergency (SoE), despite limited support from opposition parties. CHP leader Kılıçdaroğlu insisted that their objection to the SoE did not mean that his party’s stance on defending democracy together with the government against the coup attempt had changed.

The AK Parti, on the other hand, announced that some of its MPs and party executives would attend an anti-coup rally hosted by the CHP in Istanbul on July 24, under the title of “defending democracy and the republic.”

The government keeps telling people that the coup has been crushed but a threat still exists. The best way to heal Turkey and Turkish democracy from this confusion with its wounds recovered is to maintain the current mood of reconciliation, opening a new page for the country and its people.

Now the government is likely to take dramatic steps to reform the security mechanism in Turkey, from the intelligence services to the structure of the military and the judiciary. It would be in the best interests of not only the country but also of the AK Parti to consult with the opposition, especially the CHP, in major decisions - from bringing back the death penalty, (Kılıçdaroğlu says the government should not bow to the temporary excitement of the streets), to a new constitution aiming at a stronger democratic system. 

If the government succeeds in opening a new page in Turkey - in contact with the opposition - a new, better page could be opened for Turkey in the Western world.