Turkey’s War of Nerves

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to call an early parliamentary election is unlikely to defuse tensions with the country's military, which sees itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular political order. At the same time, the current crisis underscores that Turkey still faces a long road before it becomes a mature, modern democracy, in which the military accepts a less intrusive role in politics.

With the political standoff surrounding the selection of a new president intensifying, Turkey is entering a critical period that could have a profound effect on both the country’s internal evolution as a secular democracy and its relations with the West. The presidential candidacy of the moderate Islamist Abdullah Gul, currently the foreign minister, has been rejected by Turkey’s highest court, and the parliamentary election scheduled for November has been moved up to July in an effort to break the political impasse. But these steps are unlikely to defuse tensions between Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government and Turkey’s military, which sees itself as the guardian of the country’s secular state.

On the contrary, these tensions have heightened as a result of changes in the top echelons of the Turkish armed forces, particularly the replacement last August of General Hilmi Ozkok as chief of the Turkish General Staff. Ozkok was a moderate who maintained a low profile and sought to develop good working relations with Erdogan, By contrast, his successor, General Yasar Buyukanit, is a strong secularist who has been far more outspoken in asserting the military’s views.

In a speech last October to the Military Academies Command in Istanbul, Buyukanit publicly warned that Turkey faced a serious threat from “fundamentalism.” Many viewed that charge as a direct criticism of Erdogan and the governing Justice and Development Party (AKP).

To continue reading, please log in or enter your email address.

Registration is quick and easy and requires only your email address. If you already have an account with us, please log in. Or subscribe now for unlimited access.

required

Log in

http://prosyn.org/rp0QGFt;
  1. Sean Gallup/Getty Images

    Angela Merkel’s Endgame?

    The collapse of coalition negotiations has left German Chancellor Angela Merkel facing a stark choice between forming a minority government or calling for a new election. But would a minority government necessarily be as bad as Germans have traditionally thought?

  2. Trump Trade speech Bill Pugliano/Getty Images .

    Preparing for the Trump Trade Wars

    In the first 11 months of his presidency, Donald Trump has failed to back up his words – or tweets – with action on a variety of fronts. But the rest of the world's governments, and particularly those in Asia and Europe, would be mistaken to assume that he won't follow through on his promised "America First" trade agenda.

  3. A GrabBike rider uses his mobile phone Bay Ismoyo/Getty Images

    The Platform Economy

    While developed countries in Europe, North America, and Asia are rapidly aging, emerging economies are predominantly youthful. Nigerian, Indonesian, and Vietnamese young people will shape global work trends at an increasingly rapid pace, bringing to bear their experience in dynamic informal markets on a tech-enabled gig economy.

  4. Trump Mario Tama/Getty Images

    Profiles in Discouragement

    One day, the United States will turn the page on Donald Trump. But, as Americans prepare to observe their Thanksgiving holiday, they should reflect that their country's culture and global standing will never recover fully from the wounds that his presidency is inflicting on them.

  5. Mugabe kisses Grace JEKESAI NJIKIZANA/AFP/Getty Images

    How Women Shape Coups

    In Zimbabwe, as in all coups, much behind-the-scenes plotting continues to take place in the aftermath of the military's overthrow of President Robert Mugabe. But who the eventual winners and losers are may depend, among other things, on the gender of the plotters.

  6. Oil barrels Ahmad Al-Rubaye/Getty Images

    The Abnormality of Oil

    At the 2017 Abu Dhabi Petroleum Exhibition and Conference, the consensus among industry executives was that oil prices will still be around $60 per barrel in November 2018. But there is evidence to suggest that the uptick in global growth and developments in Saudi Arabia will push the price as high as $80 in the meantime.

  7. Israeli soldier Menahem Kahana/Getty Images

    The Saudi Prince’s Dangerous War Games

    Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman is working hard to consolidate power and establish his country as the Middle East’s only hegemon. But his efforts – which include an attempt to trigger a war between Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon – increasingly look like the work of an immature gambler.