A revolution out of a coup?
It is high time for Turkey to look ahead. It’s about time to identify the weaknesses and foibles within the system which paved the way for the recent coup attempt. Hence this moment is an unprecedented opportunity to draw a revolution out of a coup attempt.
After all, new orders come only in the wake of the destruction of the old ones. Austrian political scientist Joseph Schumpeter called this phenomenon “creative destruction,” saying that revolutions happen only in the aftermath of creative destruction.
Turkey is now up to reform its civil-military relations in order to clear the structural problems which paved the way for this coup attempt and prevent the realization of such attempts in the future.
The democratization of civil-military relations in Turkey had started in the country during the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government when the military tutelage was completely lifted. First of all, de facto applications such as the military’s old habit of making frequently public announcements on every matter have come to an end. Plus the influence of the military on civilians was restricted to a great extent – as it should be.
Previously the Turkish military used to be completely autonomous in its own affairs. It didn’t have any liability or accountability towards the legislative power. Yet the military expenses became partly under the supervision of the Court of Accounts during the AKP government. The Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) and its defense industry have also been held more accountable with regard to their funds. The “undisclosed” regulation of the National Security Council (MGK) was also abolished. The council was stripped of its executive authority.
The military field of law versus the civilian one was also narrowed down. Last but not least, the so-called “EMASYA” protocol - allowing the military to take power if it felt domestic security was at risk - has been annulled.
A series of breaking points during the AKP’s governance have become the symbol of this process which I call “revolutionary mementos.” First and foremost, the appointment of the first civilian secretary-general to the MGK - a position previously reserved for a military officer who reported directly to the chief of staff - in 2004 became a symbol of this process.
The second breaking point took place in 2011 when then Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan chaired the Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) by sitting alone at the head of the table where previously prime ministers would sit beside the chief of staff. This has become the symbol of the abolition of the military tutelage in Turkey.
Yet still the Turkish army is still not completely under civilian control. The ongoing civil-military reforms had been paused first due to the military trials, namely Balyoz, Ergenekon, and military spying, based on the accusations of plotting against the Turkish government. Thereafter the reforms have been shelved with the worry of harming the military struggle against the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
This is why Turkey has not been able to enter the second phase of the reformation of its civil-military relations. This coup attempt has dashed the reality in our face that Turkey has to accelerate this process most urgently.
The first step to be taken would be the subordination of the chief of staff to the Defence Ministry like in developed countries, which would transfer the pursuit of security policies to the civilian government.
Besides, in today’s world political and military spheres are interpenetrating more than ever. Today’s turbulence and uncertain environment surrounding Turkey makes this penetration more urgent and vital. This is why civilians need to be more involved and determinant in policy-making in the security field. However in Turkey the civilian officers in the Defence Ministry don’t have any say in policy-making.
The reform process would also need to enhance the supervision, accountability and transparency in all defense-related matters. First and foremost the Court of Accounts law needs to be amended. The military’s financially autonomous and non-accountable structure has to come to an end. In addition the Military High Administrative Court needs to be abolished since it creates dicephaly in the rule of law.
The gendarmerie, which is responsible for ensuring public order in remote areas outside of the jurisdiction of the Turkish National Police, should also be transferred to the administrative authority. In that case a governor or a senior bureaucrat would direct the institution, giving it a civilian identity by eventually cutting its ties with the armed forces.
In the past the Turkish armed forces used to consider itself as the stronghold of secularism and to hold the military tutelage tight against the “non-secular politician”. The AKP government has lifted this asymmetry and evened out the status of the civilians and military. Now this coup attempt urges Turkey to shift of this equation urgently in favour of the civilians.
In short, the second phase of the “destructive creation” is pending.