Last week has marked a failed Turkish Coup by the military. It has been argued that the Turkish military has attempted coups in the past, to uphold the principles of “Kemalism”. The principles of Kemalism, deriving its origins from the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, calls for a sweeping political, social, cultural and religious reforms, designed to separate the new Turkish state from tis Ottoman predecessors. The basic principles focus on the establishment of democracy, secularism, and the state support of the sciences and education. It is for this very principle that the Turkish military has taken over four times in the past, and tried to do it for the fifth time in July 2016. In an alleged attempt to uphold the principles of secularism and separate the religion from the state, more than 6000 soldiers were detained on grounds of sedition.
But why did the Coup fail in the first place? Before answering the question, it is important to keep in mind that the success/failure of the coup was not determined by the coup plotters’ military strength, or their strength within the military. A lot of it was determined by their ability to make it seem like they were going to succeed. This ability to change how people perceive a particular movement, oft shaped by the media and internet these days, has become critical for the success of a coup. In simpler words, if the local population is of the perception that the coup will succeed, the join up because no one would love to end up on the wrong side of this arms race. Additionally, the second point that adds to this failed attempt is the inability of the coup plotters to galvanize and put up a “scorched-earth” military resistance. An outright military conflict, and bloodshed mark the problems in this smooth transition from rule of law to the rule of military. Coups entail factions defecting to sides which seem to be winning over. If the plotters were successful in making a perception that the overthrow of the Turkish president was inevitable, then it would have been hard to believe that Erdogan supports would have raised against the movement.
When the Turkish coup plotters failed to get access to the TV and Radio Stations and spread the message that the government had failed, the perception of this coup being successful fell. This was coupled by the presidential address via FaceTime that assured the stability of the government and opposed the coup. These factors turned the coup into a foiled attempt, with the President blaming his political opponents in the Gülen movement behind this attempt.
The aftermath of this Coup have only raised eyebrows, with the common argument being that Erdogan can now portray himself as the defender of Turkish democracy, shedding the image of an “authoritarian villain”, responsible for human right violations in the country. What most political commentators might call as a return to the “rule of law”, might turn out as the biggest opportunity for Erdogan and his administration to legitimize their acts by amending the constitution, and reinstalling death penalty, much to the chagrin of the European Union and the United States.