Can something good come out of the putrid coup attempt?

Can something good come out of the putrid coup attempt?

Democratic politics is not just about having some ideas or uniting around some others’ ideas on ways of resolving the problems of a community. It is a mechanism, an art, a science of seeking ways of resolution to problems in a manner serving the common interests of the nation. If and when polarization, antagonism and sectarian obsessions take prominence over consensus-seeking and national interests, there is a serious problem. 

If and when membership in a party or a religious brotherhood becomes dominant in recruitments, placements and promotions in all branches of the public sector instead of competence, the system is doomed to collapse at some point. July 15 was a rehearsal of that day and if Turkey cannot escape this crooked mentality in governance, the country and the nation might not be as lucky next time in managing to defeat the coup.

A meeting between two opposition leaders, as well as Prime Minister Binali Yılıdırım and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, was something unthinkable on the morning of July 15. Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu going to the grotesque palace of Erdoğan was particularly unthinkable. If the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) had not been left out, it would have been a far better picture of much needed national unity.

The July 24 meeting offered the nation a ray of hope as for the first time in the past 14 years, the biggest three parties in the country and the president – hopefully sincerely – agreed on the need for consensus politics instead of the categorical rejection of each other and each other’s opinions. Will the “tall, bold, bald, ever angry man yelling at everyone” manage to walk such a road and abandon majoritarianism? There are signs that, like all of us, the president has also realized what a dangerous road we were hurtling down on at full speed, eyes wide shut, yelling at each other. Will he and will we be able to slow down, make a reassessment, engage in some self-criticism and wholeheartedly apologize for all the wrongs done so far?
All through the Ergenekon and Sledgehammer thrillers, this writer and many others were complaining about a coup against the nationalists, Kemalists in the country, particularly those in the military, academia and the media. During those terrible years when hundreds of people were deprived of their freedoms, some died or committed suicide in prison, we stressed that while the government was proudly declaring the termination of military tutelage on democracy, it was replacing it with party tutelage. 

It was proved later that the tutelage imposed was not that of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) tutelage but was that of the AKP and the Gülen Brotherhood. Thus, many people, including this writer, started writing that sooner or later, the AKP and the Gülenists were destined to fight as neither would want to share power with the other. Apparently, we were about to be sandwiched in the last battle of that war.

Has the danger come to an end? The latest government degree expelling hundreds of officers and generals from the military amid the rounding up of journalists, publishers, businessmen and academics, the takeover of thousands of schools and dozens of universities, the continued purge in the bureaucracy and the heavy work machines still blocking entrances to almost all military barracks demonstrate that the danger is not yet over. It was as well unfortunate to see, very much like the Ergenekon time, an effort to put everyone in one “coup plotter” sack. How could, for example, Ali Bulaç, a journalist and writer who has spent a life against radical Islam, or Lale Kemal, a journalist who has extensively written against coups, or award-winning journalist and FOX TV news editor Bülent Mumay belong to the Gülenist group? How could employment in Zaman, Today’s Zaman or the TV or radio stations alleged to belong to the Gülen group – they were all closed down Wednesday – be a sufficient reason to be taken into custody? Turkey is passing through extraordinary times and as a requirement of these difficult conditions, it has declared emergency rule. Emergency rule gives the government extraordinary powers. Its decisions cannot be appealed, for example. With such powers, the government ought to consider compatibility with the principles of the “supremacy of law,” “respect for human rights” and, of course, “the presumption of innocence.” Unfortunately, this move to “put everyone in one sack” might spoil the broth and stain the national pride of defeating a coup.

Why did this country come to July 15? What great problems brought us to that point? These and such problems must be answered with an open heart and mind with full awareness of who the coup plotters were as well as the overall psychology of the crowds filling city squares every night. 

Developments have proven that Turkey must firmly embrace the principle of secularism and abandon the understanding that “sovereignty belongs to God. Since we serve in the name of God, and since the people voted for us, everything should be entrusted to me – I am the national sovereignty.”

If a confrontation- and polarization-based political understanding can be replaced with an approach of compromise and consensus, we will be able to say something good came out of the putrid coup attempt.