Time to save democracy, not stir more division

Time to save democracy, not stir more division

Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, who himself was ousted by President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan not so long ago, believes that the threat from the coup attempt on July 15 is not over yet. 

He told the Habertürk news channel the other night that those who were behind this failed attempt could resort to other means to achieve their ends. He also underlined “the need to consolidate the Turkish Armed Forces [TSK].” 

It is debatable whether the failed coup attempt can be revived, given the mass purges currently underway. It is clear however that unless the situation is managed according to democratic principles and the rule of law, Davutoğlu’s prediction may come true in other ways.

The vindictiveness with which the government is moving does not bode well in this respect. Rather than promising to bolster democracy and its institutions, the steps being taken give the appearance of a massive witch hunt against anyone considered a potential opponent of Erdoğan.

There is also much talk about a return of the death penalty, which the current leadership is pandering to rather than exhorting a level-headed approach to the matter.

It has to be remembered that the prime minister and his key ministers were executed after the 1960 coup. There were also executions of left wing activists after the coup in 1971. 

All of these people were charged with treason. All of them are revered names today for large segments of the population, including supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Those executions were carried out to satiate feelings of vengeance. They changed little in Turkey in the positive sense of the word.

AKP supporters argue that there is no comparison between those cases and what we are faced with today. Executing the perpetrators of this failed coup attempt would be just and according to the rule of law, they argue. 

But whose rule of law are they referring to? Turkey is a country where tables turn overnight. Who would have believed 10 years ago that the head of the army could be sent to prison on terrorism charges? 

Yet that happened, with the support at the time of Erdoğan and the AKP. Gen. Ilker Başbuğ and other officers were subsequently released after the Erdoğan-Fethullah Gülen war broke out, despite the fact that they had received life sentences. 

Ironically the AKP is relying on the victims of the Ergenekon trials now to speak out against Gülen’s supporters in the judiciary who incarcerated them. 

There are only two paths for Turkey now. One leads to further divisions and domestic strife. The other is the course of wisdom which considers Turkey’s interests over and above ideological plans for the country that will serve the interests of one segment of society to the detriment of others.

It was not clear, as this piece was being written, what the extraordinary measures Erdoğan promised to announce on July 20 were. To be frank, many were bracing themselves with negative rather than positive expectations, given the anger that has overtaken Erdoğan.

If so, the Davutoğlu’s concern that the threat from the coup is not over will prove to be true, even if this happens in ways he did not consider. 

It is not just the military that has to be “consolidated” in Turkey, to use Davutoğlu’s term. It is Turkey as a whole that has to be reconsolidated in order to overcome the seeds of domestic enmity sown under the AKP. 
It is not clear whether Erdoğan is up to this task, or even if he wants to go down that path now that he believes he has grabbed the political initiative with this failed coup attempt. 

What Erdoğan’s supporters have to keep in mind, however, is that tables do turn in Turkey, if not today then tomorrow, if not tomorrow then eventually.

The task therefore should not be to save the AKP, but to save Turkey’s democracy - and hence, its respectability among nations. That is what is going to count in the history books.