The failed military coup in Turkey was intended to usher a new order, however, in the end it was Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan that emerged with a stronger hand and a great opportunity.
Dramatic footage as the coup unfolded of heavy gunfire, tanks and helicopters resembled a war zone. A weary looking Erdogan addressing the nation via FaceTime on his mobile summed up the uncertainty and desperation of the government as the coup unfolded.
Thousands of Erdogan supporters heeded his call and took to the streets effectively blunting the coup and eventually allowing the pro-government forces to wrestle back control.
As a sense of normality seemingly returned to Turkey, the aftermath of the dramatic events will echo much louder.
Erdogan has long tried to dampen dissident voices and stifle opposition circles. Erdogan can now clearly argue that his suspicion and distrust of the so called “parallel infrastructure” was not so far-fetched after all. He now has strong grounds to consolidate power, move towards his ambition of a presidential system and deal with long-time foe and influential exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen who he accused of perpetrating the coup.
Gulen was quick to deny any involvement but the AKP strongly pressured Washington to extradite him.
As the arrests quickly stacked up in the aftermath of the failed coup, thousands more can be expected in the coming days. There is even talk in Turkey of reinstating the death penalty. Either way, the government will come down hard and will point to the thousands of supporters on the streets as testimony to the endorsement of his policies.
However, do the thousands of supporters that ultimately helped the government emerge triumphant really paint the full picture?
The simple answer is that a highly polarised Turkey has been on the edge for some time. There are conflicting camps of Islamists, secularists, nationalists, reformists and not to mention inter-ethnic strife with the Kurds highlighted by a raging war against the PKK and unrest in the south east.
Erdogan may enjoy strong support but this should not mask his many opponents either. The fact that Erdogan and the AKP urged their supporter to remain vigilant in the face of any secondary coup attempt highlighted the vulnerabilities and uncertainties that remain.
Whilst the failed coup gives the government a strong card, it hardly means that the polarisation is about to disappear. For example, any arrest of Gulen or his extradition to Turkey will quickly expose loyalties.
Furthermore, to just point to the coup as a work of a small minority is short-sighted. The coup plotters involved hundreds of figures from senior generals to low ranking soldiers. They clearly must have enjoyed support and encouragement from non-military circles. A coup doesn’t just come about at a moment’s notice without careful planning.
The coup plot may leave Erdogan with a stronger hand but not necessarily a stronger Turkey. It has too often skimmed over the hostility of rival camps or stifled dissident voices. With so many conflicting sides having different interests in the makeup and future of the country, further turmoil is only a natural by-product.
First Published: Kurdish Globe
Other Publication Sources: Various Misc