Turkish coup talk is ploy to target opposition, the National says
Turkish pro-government commentators are drumming up discussion about coup plots against the government as a way to distract from domestic problems and target the opposition, Emirati newspaper the National reported.
Almost four years after the failed coup d’état on 15 July 2016, pro-government backers have been speculating about a possible second attempt to topple Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, a claim disputed by independent observers quoted by the National.
The talk of a conspiracy against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) began after Erdoğan accused the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) earlier in May of “still yearning and burning for coups, tutelage and juntas”.
Four governments in Turkey’s modern history have been overthrown or forced to stand down in coups and military interventions. Some 241 people were killed and 2,194 others were injured during the attempted coup in 2016, when factions in the Turkish military launched an operation in major cities to unseat Erdoğan.
After the president’s comments in May, pro-government commentators began to speak about a potential coup, often in violent terms.
“You say ‘We will overthrow Tayyip Erdogan, we will execute him’,” journalist Fatih Tezcan said in an online video. “How will you protect your wife, your children from us? The blood of millions will spill for a single drop of Erdogan’s blood.”
Ersin Ramoğlu, a columnist for the Sabah newspaper, said last week that the Gülen religious movement, which the AKP blames for the 2016 coup attempt, still had sufficient strength in the Turkish state to launch a new attempt to topple the government.
“They’re still in the army, the press, the police, the bureaucracy, the municipalities and in politics,” Ramoğlu said.
The movement is led by Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist preacher and one-time ally of Erdoğan who now lives in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. Gülenists were widely believed to have infiltrated key positions in the Turkish state and security services, which the AKP says they used in various attempts to unseat the government up to the 2016 coup attempt.
But Ahmet Evin, a veteran political scientist and a senior fellow at the Istanbul Policy Centre, told The National he found it hard to believe that any faction could challenge the government after the years of purges that followed the coup attempt.
“It’s really confusing because who is there in the military to mount anything like that?” he said.
CHP deputy Murat Emir called the talk of new coup attempts a means of targeting critics of the government.
“With the current government, every opposition figure who expresses the need for change is accused of hinting at a coup,” Emir told the National.
Last month, Erdoğan accused CHP mayors who wrested control of the country’s largest cities from the AKP in the 2019 local elections of using their positions to establish a “parallel state” by running their own aid programmes during the coronavirus pandemic. The comments raised speculation that he could be preparing to take over the CHP municipalities as his government has taken over Kurdish-led municipalities in the country’s southeast.
At the same time, the talk of a coup serves as a distraction at a time when Turkey’s economy is struggling to overcome the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic, said Aykan Erdemir, senior director of the Foundation for Defence of Democracies’ Turkey programme.