Will Erdoğan rise to the occasion with wisdom?
Having lived through the other ones, I never thought I would see another coup in Turkey. The events of Friday night do not belie this expectation. Unlike the majority of past attempts, this one failed. Anyone who plans another coup will have to factor in what happened on the night of July 15.
A coup which pits the military against the people does not have a chance of success in Turkey. The madness of this attempt shows how desperate people can resort to desperate measures, including bombing parliament.
Another such attempt is more likely to turn into a civil war than the clinical military takeover which some no doubt have been hoping for. This is where the wisdom - or lack of it - of the current leadership will be determining.
President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has emerged, so far, not as the president of the people, but as the leader of a certain segment of society. Many believe he has put the interests of the republic aside in favor of the ideological interests of his Islamist party.
This is what lies at the root of much of the social tension we have. It will be hard for Turkey to return to even a semblance of normality if he can’t make himself the president of the whole nation.
Erdoğan is uttering grand pronouncements about democracy now. Democracy, however, is not what he says it is, based on his majoritarian outlook, which stands opposed to the notion of pluralism. There are, therefore, major lessons for Erdoğan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in this failed coup attempt.
Contrary to the climate of fear and suspicion stoked by Erdoğan and the AKP, the assumption that “White Turks” would immediately support the military in a coup fell flat on its face. The term “White Turk” refers to Western-oriented secularists in this country who are hated by Erdoğan’s supporters.
Turks of all shades showed, however, that the worst democracy is still better than military rule. How Erdoğan and the AKP evaluate this once the dust settles will be crucial.
A second lesson for Erdoğan and the AKP concerns the vital importance of a free media. It was almost divine justice that it should have been the Doğan Group, and especially its CNN Türk channel, that came to their rescue. The group has been an object of hatred for Erdoğan supporters, who have even accused it in the past of supporting Fethullah Gülen, the alleged organizer of this coup attempt.
The organizers of this coup attempt made the fatal mistake of taking over the insignificant state-owned TRT channel to read out their proclamation. Erdoğan did not make the same mistake. Instead of turning to the pro-government media which slavishly supports him, he opted to speak to media organs that matter in Turkey. CNN Türk was there to accommodate him in the name of democracy, and was even raided by rebellious soldiers for this support.
Erdoğan also has to bite the bullet and be grateful to the opposition he hates so much for standing firm against the coup attempt. The opposition was out to save Turkey’s democracy, but it saved the AKP too.
This coup attempt is ultimately the product of the chaos Turkey has been allowed to drift into. Who is responsible for this chaos will now be much debated. This being Turkey, the debate has a high chance of being destructive rather than constructive.
Erdoğan’s position in this debate will also be determining in terms of domestic peace and stability. If he can’t win over his instinct for vengeance it could easily come to what the Independent’s Robert Fisk, who rarely has anything good to say about Turkey, is predicting.
In his piece on the topic, Fisk referred to “the coup-that-wasn’t” and concluded by saying: “Stand by for another one in the months or years to come.”
No doubt there are Turks who share Fisk’s sentiment, which appears to smack of hopeful anticipation. All eyes, therefore, are fixed on Erdoğan now, after this “coup-that-wasn’t.”
How he rises to the occasion will be vitally important for Turkey.