System Error in Turkey

Article published on March 6, 2008
community published
Article published on March 6, 2008
Everything that we know about the Turkish politics started to turn up side down. The pro-Islamic ruling party AKP started to stand strong side by side with their arch-rivals: The Army. Moreover, the main opposition party CHP and the nationalist party MHP –the admirers of the strong Turkish military- went so far as to accuse the chief of the general staff Yasar Buyukanit with being a coward.

trioAll these things happened in one week. The surprise mass military offence of Turkish troops against the pro-Kurdish PKK militia lasted only 8 days and finished as surprisingly as it started. Right after the visit of the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates, the General Staff declared on its web site that the operation is finished and the troops started to withdraw from the Northern Iraq. The military said the ground operation had achieved its objectives, including the deaths of some 240 PKK members and the destruction or seizure of PKK equipment and facilities. Both the General Staff and the government say Turkey reserves the right to send troops back into Northern Iraq against the PKK if this is deemed necessary.

Then came the accusations of the People’s Republican Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP). Deniz Baykal –the leader of the CHP- accused both the government and the Army by selling out Turkish national interests to the Americans. "The ending of the ground operation had surprised whole world and Turkey... Why Turkey decided to end this when it reached its the most successful (point)? Everybody wonders the answer of this question" Baykal said. Devlet Bahceli –the ferocious preacher/leader of the MHP- went even further and blamed the General Staff for helping the image of the outlawed separatists by issuing statements that effectively depicted them as worthy opponents.

The reply from the General Staff raised the tension. The statement published on the web page of the General Staff described the protest of the CHP and the MHP as “meaningless attacks”.

Basically on this particular issue, the Army and the AKP government are sharing the same view which creates a great deal of confusion. What can we sort out from this major shift in Turkish political dynamics? A respected law scholar Mithat Sancar claims that the defenders of the military solution (implying CHP and MHP) for the Kurdish issue came to a dead end and they still reject to see the political solution alternatives and this creates a major tension between the opposition parties and the Army. He states that a clash between MHP/CHP and the Army in addition to the AKP vs. the Army struggle may ignite a normalization process in the country. Army may withdraw its influence from the political arena and it may become a “normal” institution.

This view is a bit too optimistic for a country like Turkey. The Army will keep opposing to the “anti-secular/pro-Islamic” policies of the AKP government when ever they find a chance. In those cases they will stand side by side again with the CHP and MHP. This recent shift does not look like the beginning of a new ongoing trend in Turkey. It is just a system error and it will fix itself. Everything will return to normal with the next pro-Islamic legislation attempt of the AKP government. Army will declare its discomfort; the CHP and MHP will keep attacking to the government with the support of the General Staff. Turkey needs something more than the trivial incidents to drive the Army away from the politics. Still it is interesting to see AKP and the Army at the same side.