02/27/2010, 00.00
TURKEY
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Pyrrhean truce between Erdogan and the Turkish army

by NAT da Polis
The Beyloz affair involves high ranking figures of the army, held responsible along with members of the judiciary and bureaucracy of the non-democratic drift in the country. With the support of some sections of the armed forces, Erdogan seems to want to change the constitution in a more democratic direction. He seeks the support of the EU.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) - A " Pyrrhean truce": this is the analysis of the current situation of political crisis in Turkey doing the rounds in diplomatic circles, after yet another clash between the Turkish army and Prime Minister Erdogan. The truce was signed yesterday with the contribution of President Gul and with the release of two significant and emblematic figures of the Turkish Armed Forces, the former head of aeronautics and former head of the navy fırtına Ibrahim and Özden Örnek.    

Their arrest, along with 38 other army officers, some still active, have upset Turkey. They are accused of being involved in the Beyloz affair, which between 2002 and 2003, aimed to overthrow the AKP government led by Erdogan. The plan foresaw provoked attacks aimed at destabilizing the Turkish political system, to undermine Erdogan’s political capabilities, attacks on mosques, the creation of episodes of war on the Aegean Sea between Turkey and Greece. According to the authoritative Turkish analyst Ali Bairamoglu, these events disrupt the foundations of an era, of a regime that has been crushed and the role of the military and  military men who, wishing to play a key role on the fate of the country, are now called upon to  account  for their misdeeds.  

This latest wave of arrests is the most important since the outset of the Ergenekon affair and comes at a time when political life in Turkey is characterized by intense polarization, triggered by the arrest of  Ilhan Cihaner judge of Erzincan. The latter, accused of being part of Ergenekon, was investigating alleged actions of religious sects to which Erdogan's party was accused having links.

Turkish analysts – among which of note, Orhan Cengiz Keman of TUSEV – remark that these statements make clear that the real underlying problem of Turkey is its constitution.    

According to authoritative voices, Başbug, Chief of Staff of the Army, was about to resign in protest, after a secret meeting with Turkish top army officials. But thanks to the extraordinary meeting with Gul and Erdogan, a joint statement has emerged, that all differences should be dealt with and resolved within the constitutional framework.

That constitution was imposed in 1981 by the Evren coup. It should be noted that all the constitutions of the Turkish Republic have been imposed by coup. The latter, formed the current judicial and bureaucratic class which is opposed to any democratic reform.    

Besides Erdogan himself is the son of the constitution and just like Turkish society itself, without Democratic reflexes. But his struggle to lift a ban on the turban made him understand that only a radical constitutional reform will lead to the democratization of Turkish society. The liberal-progressive forces are pushing for a purge of the State of all conservative forces - represented by the bureaucracy, the judiciary and clearly by the army – because they are seen to be imbued with the coup virus of the past.    

The same forces do not hide that this period of political transition that the country is experiencing is full of pitfalls. A remarkable fact circulating among diplomatic circles is that the revelations on the Beyloz affair, made public by Taraf newspaper, that delivered no less than 5 thousand cases to the magistrate, must have had the tacit support of some sectors of the armed forces, which seek to protect their integrity to some degree. Even their penultimate Turkish Chief of Staff, Ozgur, had said during his farewell speech, that Turkey lack’s democracy.  

 

For obvious reasons, Erdogan avoids their support. Meanwhile the High Council of the Turkish Radio Television has recently given the go ahead to 14 television stations to broadcast in Kurdish dialects. And this after permission to broadcast  in Kurdish was issued in January 2009.  

Erdogan is thus seeking to reform the Turkish constitution through parliament, but he lacks the numbers. Under the current constitution, that of the 1981 coup, constitutional amendments need a 2 / 3 majority of Members. This means that Erdogan is missing 10 deputies. The opposition Party (CHP Kemalist-inspired)led by Baykal is considered the protector of the interests of conservative forces, to the point that it has declared there is nothing wrong with "conspiring in private." Even the nationalist MHP are against reform. The only reservoir from which Erdogan could draw is the new party named Demokratika Birlik Partisi (DBP), born from the ashes of DTP (the party representing the Kurdish minority in Turkish parliament), suppressed by the Turkish Supreme Court. Its president, Yalcinkaya, never ceases to challenge the constitutionality of Erdogan's party. DBP also enjoys the support of various sectors of Turkish intellectuals, on condition that it detaches itself from a policy focusing on pro-Kurdish nationalism, and commit itself rather to the battle for the granting of rights of people in the southeast of the country.   At the same time, almost unexpectedly, the Parliamentary Commission for Human Rights visited the Mamak prisons, where from 1980 to 1992 the most significant voices of democratic Turkey were imprisoned. The visit generated many statements on television, most of them a reminder  that it is time to change.  

For tomorrow, 28 February, Erdogan summoned a conference to be held in Dolmabaxce on constitutional reform in Turkey. Meanwhile, his minister for relations with the European Union is on tour of Europe, in search of support.  

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