Turkish People Power foils attempted Coup

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

The poorly planned junior officers’ coup in Turkey on Friday appears to have failed as I write late Friday night, though rebel military elements still hold positions in some parts of the country, including Ankara, the capital. Their allegiances and motives are still unclear.

Remarkably, among the reasons for the failure was the determined stance of the Turkish people who stood up for their democracy, even if about half of them deeply dislike President Erdogan.

Crowds came out into the streets in Istanbul and Ankara. Individuals stood or lay down in front of tanks.

Some civilians even arrested mutinying troops!

After the military faction took over state tv, crowds invaded the station and allowed its anchors to come back on line.

An army faction and street crowds battled back and forth for control of the offices of CNN Turk, and could be heard on live feed even as the cameras showed an empty room.

Although in the nature of the case many of the members of such anti-coup crowds were drawn from the ranks of partisans of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), others hailed from the student movement of 2013 that mobilized over preserving Gezi Park, and who had been repressed by the Istanbul police.

Moreover, the major opposition political parties all came out against the coup.

The party with the greatest reason to resent Erdogan is the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), whose members Erdogan is attempting to expel from parliament. He had a law passed taking away their parliamentary immunity in preparation for just that step. When they won 13% of the vote last summer, Erdogan engineered a second election to attempt to lock them out of parliament (you need 10% of the vote to be seated). The president appears to have deliberately broken off the peace process with the PKK and ramped up a war on separatist, leftist Kurdish guerrillas (who were not blameless since they were attacking Turkish security forces), in hopes of cutting into the HDP vote by promoting Turkish nationalism and anti-Kurdish sentiment. Even though Erdogan has played them about as dirty as you could play other politicians, Sabah reports that

“In a joint written statement, People’s Democratic Party (HDP) co-chairs, Selehattin Demirtaş and Figen Yüksekdağ, said no one replaces himself as the national will. “HDP takes a stand against every coup in every condition. . . There is no way beside protecting . . . democratic politics.”

Another party that despises Erdogan is the centrist, secular Republican People’s Party (CHP). As leader of a center-right pro-Muslim party, Erdogan is everything the CHP stands against. They don’t like his pro-Muslim Brotherhood foreign policy, his support for Hamas, his intervention in Syria. They don’t like his encouragement of religious symbols and practices on state property, which they see as sectarian. Uncharismatic CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said that the “Community should give joint reaction to every coup attempt . . . This country was wracked with coups. We do not want to go through the same troubles. We’ll protect our republic and democracy; keep our commitment to the free will of our citizens . . . So, whoever does, wherever it comes, we should take a joint stand against the coup as we take a joint stand against terrorism.”

Likewise, the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), denounced the attempted coup.

Those are the three other most powerful parties in the country aside from the Justice and Development Party of Erdogan itself, which holds 50% of the seats in parliament and so was able to form a government without coalition partners. They all firmly rejected the coup.

Ironically, Turkish democracy is in deep trouble. President Erdogan looks at the system as an elective dictatorship– the only role of the people is to vote in a regular referendum on him and his party, after which they should demobilize and let him do as he will. No one, he says, has a right to criticize an elected leader who represents the will of the people (Rousseau meets Ottomanism). Erdogan has mercilessly cracked down on the press, jailing journalists for reporting news he didn’t like.

Even under these circumstances, the Turkish people rejected a military take-over, across the board.

People power has often helped return the military to the barracks after a coup, as with the protests in Pakistan in 2007 over Gen Pervez Musharraf’s tinkering with the Supreme Court, which forced him to step down in favor of a democratically elected government. But this Turkish moment is important because it didn’t just end a military dictatorship, it helped nip one in the bud.


Related video:

Bloomberg: “Crowds Take to the Streets in Turkey, as Army Attempts Coup”

25 Responses

  1. Expect an immediate claim of more powers and a snap election to ram through a new constitution.
    Then let’s talk about democracy preserved, shall we?

    • A “situation report” on the Saker describes the coup as a US/EU “regime change” attempt. Turkish officials are quoted sating that the coup plotter was Gulen, supported by the US, and that his supporters “cannot be our friends.” Turkey had blocked access and shut off electricity to the US airbase at Incirlik, and the US embassy warned US citizens not to go there. The shootdown of a Russian jet a few months ago is blamed on a faction of coup plotters in the Turkish air force.

      Comments there suggest that a Turkey-Russia raprochement is in the works, in which Turkey might trade natural gas and tourism from Russia, and moderation of Kurdish ambitions, for cutting Turkish aid to northern rebels, so the US set off a coup attempt.

      If so, this would drive a wedge between Turkey and the US/EU/Israel/Saudis and substantially change the balance of power there.

      • reply to Jeff:

        the Saker site is increasingly ideological and the commentariat is a cult. Saker WANTS to believe this was an American coup.
        i’ve tracked this site since the Maidan. Saker is a mythomaniac starring in his own movie, which is romancing “Holy Russia” – which doesn’t exist and never did.
        it’s too bad, because within his professional competence this man has been very illuminating.

        • A similar interpretation with much evidence can be found on the website Katehon.com which has largely Russian people in its “about” page. The evidence is not to be ignored.

  2. This was an expression of power par excellence by the AKP. Being able to mobilize these masses. Now nothing will prevent Erdogan from going after anyone opposing his will.
    This was the worst thing that could have happened in Turkish politics.

    • Everyone demonstrated against this coup even the people who hated him the most.

      Not to mention the tiny fact that 50% of the people voted for the AKP last time around. Thankfully the Turkish are is neither sectarian nor politicised so when they saw the people against them the majority refused to heed to orders to shoot at the protesters and joined them.

  3. The Turkish people showed an amazing spirit, too bad their president won’t.

    This will just further his paranoia.

  4. Now if they could all get together to do the right thing and vote the Sultan out of office. Turkey and the region cannot endure any more of the chaos he has unleashed.

  5. The word overpowered the mighty gun…with the help of modern technology: there is hope for the world.

  6. Steve Kowalchuk

    I thought it was gross and really careless of Erdogan to tell his citizens to go out into the streets, into a very dangerous situation. He must not give a shit about the Turkish people. He always squashes dissent and uses the military to violently suppress protesters – he put pepper spray into water cannons and sprayed it on demonstrators. He hates protest and demonstrations, but when his own power is threatened he begs the citizens to go into the streets and risk their lives for him. He’s a Supreme Dick.

    • Why should the people accept an unelected dictatorship that will murder them and confiscate their property?

      The protests started well before Erdogan came on air his appearance to rally the people was his constitutional duty.

  7. If only Americans could follow the example of these Turks in opposition to the takeover of America by its plutocrats and Republican and Democratic party oligarchies.

  8. I have to confess that I was very, very conflicted when I heard the news last night. On the one hand, Erdogan is a megalomaniac who has inflicted major harm on Turkish institutions. HIs departure, IMHO, can’t come soon enough. On the other hand, coups are simply out of bounds and anti-democratic. If Erodogan survives the challenge, he’ll likely clamp down even more on dissent and aggregate even more power domestically.

    I don’t know who wins but it’s clear who the big lose is in either case: Turkey

  9. Remarkable developments, which will certainly have long term after-effects.

    The position of the opposition parties is especially commendable — this is what civilization and maturity looks like in practice. I’m sure many will be holding their breaths to see if Erdogan can be gracious in victory, or whether he will be using this as an excuse for further “witch hunts” against (real or imagined) domestic oppenents. Nevertheless, broad segments of Turkish society have shown much more intelligence than certain segments of the American electorate, and very much more intelligence than certain segments of American journalistic “pundits” and sensation-seeking internet writers.

  10. 2,745 judges have been replaced by the government (a.k.a. Tayyip) in the wake of the coup.

    Democracy in action, eh?

  11. Übrigens, why would we call it a junior officers revolt when there reports that 5 Generals and 30 Colonels were among those rrested?

  12. I was appalled at the number of commenters at Daily Kos supporting the coup in the hours before it collapsed.
    Then suddenly they were all saying it was a conspiracy by Erdogan to destroy his enemies. Nobody remembers the days when it seemed 90% of all coups established bloody dictatorships.
    That’s what we’re down to in America now. Imagine how much worse it is on the Right.

  13. There are reports of people murdering soldiers. I know that no coup is good, but I am no fan of mob mentality either. We have witnessed what happened in Egypt. People cheered when 700 supporters of Morsi were gunned down. It is conceivable that the coup will be precursor of civil war in Turkey.

  14. This attempted coup reminds me of the one in Spain in 1980 or 81. Yesterday I asked myself some questions related to the similarities. Is it possible that Erdogan was not silienced during the first minutes of the coup because he was tipped off? One or some of the coup plotters could have betrayed the plot. Or, the NSA might have tipped Erdogan off. If either of these is the case then the scenario that Errdogan was caught by surprise while on vacation was actually carefully constructed disinformation. It was designed to give him the appearance of being in God’s favor.
    BUT, and this is a really really big one, what if he really was caught by surprise? The implications of that MIGHT be big.
    Would he blame anyone for being caught by surprise if that were really the case? Will he ask himself did my intellegence agencies fail me? Will he ask himself, did any of these intellegence agencies of my supposed allies pick up indications that there was a plot against me and not share that information with me? If he suspects that the answer to this last question is yes what will he do about it? Will he change course in a way that pleases those who might have withheld information so as to rebuild damaged bridges or will he cut out the bridge supports leaving only the appearance of bridges intact?

  15. Parviz Lalehzari

    Well, give Erdogan enough time he will run this so called democracy to ground, this guy has been moving toward Islamic dictatorship slowly and in a very sneaky way, he has jailed journalists, judges, military officers ……. plus looking at the way this coup was carried out and how it ended, I am wondering if Erdogan had something to do with it, now he will use this as an excuse to gain more powers and get rid of remaining oppositions, I think the only winner of this coup is Erdogan

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