Turkish military's mass resignations show the end of Turkish military's role in governmentThe resignations of Turkey's Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commanders of the Army, Navy and Air Force, may symbolize the end of the Turkish military's power in the country's government.
“This is effectively the end of the military’s role in Turkish democracy,” said Asli Aydintasbas, a columnist for the Turkish daily newspaper Milliyet. “This is the symbolic moment where the first Turkish republic ends and the second republic begins.”Two analysts have raised the possibility that the resignations are preparations for a military coup, but that appears unlikely with so many officers imprisoned. One report even claimed that Kosaner's resignation was forced by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mr. Erdogan has rolled back the military’s political power substantially since he took office in 2002, in part through legal reforms that assert civilian control. But the single biggest blow to the military’s clout has been a sprawling series of investigations and trials in which a number of senior military commanders, as well as journalists and others, were charged with conspiring to overthrow Mr. Erdogan’s government.
The resignations were the culmination of a year of frustrations, in which more than 40 generals — approximately a tenth of the senior military command — were taken into custody, an assault that has infuriated the military but left it essentially helpless to fight back.
A more immediate spark may have come in the form of new arrest warrants for 22 more people, among them two top generals, which were issued Friday, the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported.
“This is the first time in the history of the republic that we are seeing something like this,” said Gursel Tekin, vice president of the main opposition political party, who was speaking in the seaside city of Canakkale. “Honestly, this situation is not good.”
Historically, the military has wielded immense power in Turkey. The modern nation was founded in 1923 by Gen. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, and the military remained involved in politics after the country went to a multiparty political system in the 1950s.
Military leaders have deposed elected governments four times in Turkish history, beginning in 1960, when they went so far as to execute the country’s first democratically elected prime minister, Adnan Menderes. But the Turkish political system has gone through profound changes in recent years, and many analysts argued that resigning was the only weapon left in the military’s arsenal. Few people interviewed on Friday thought that a coup was likely, both because Turkey’s democracy now has deep roots and because the military appeared diminished.
“Besides this one act, the military doesn’t really have that much left in the tank,” said Steven Cook, an expert at the Council on Foreign Relations in Washington. Mr. Cook argued that the resignations also said a great deal about Turkey as a democracy, because its citizens — even those who dislike Mr. Erdogan’s increasingly powerful Justice and Development Party — were no longer willing to accept military rule.
“Turkey has grown out of that,” he said.
The resignations seemed intended to send a message that the military was still powerful enough to shake up the country’s political system. But they seemed almost to have had the opposite effect, with Mr. Erdogan acting fast to choose a new leader.
“This was their last resort,” Ms. Aydintasbas said of the resignations. “It is happening precisely because there is no likelihood of a coup. There is nothing else for them to do.”
But the real bad news here is that Turkey is not headed toward a more democratic government. It is headed toward a more Islamist one.
What could go wrong?