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May 06, 2012, Sunday

Coups and Turks

Much has been written against or in defense of military coups, especially in countries where they are frequent. Even coups need reasons to be, and the putchists need support of some kind to direct their weapons against the putative “enemies” of the nation within national boundaries.

Indeed, coups are generally realized by military officers either in groups -- juntas -- or within the chain of command, therefore implicating the whole military apparatus. Then an army is pitted against the very nation that created it and which it has sworn to serve and protect.

Military coups are acts of holding the nation to ransom and treating it as a hostage or a criminal gang just because it does not obey the orders of those who point their guns against it in the name of public order and national security.

Coups also expose the flawed nature of nationalism. If the definition of a nation is narrower than the population of a sovereign country, the result is the “other” or potential enemies being designated within the country’s borders. Whenever the likelihood of any crisis of the system -- be it political or economic -- arises, these “enemies” become the target of public wrath. The army moves to protect the nation from the exaggerated “threat” they pose.

Unfortunately, Turkey has not been immune to this farcical play staged so frequently, therefore minimizing its democracy and delaying its development. Recently, a government with enough public support behind it has paved the way for the prosecution of the old culprits who dared to threaten the nation and usurp power more than once. But more importantly an opportunity has arisen for us, the people, to judge ourselves and to clearly see our collaboration with the putchists who we accepted as “saviors” from imaginary or fabricated dangers and enemies.

The MetroPoll Strategic and Social Research Center conducted a survey in the last days of April into our controversial affair with coups and their perpetrators. The findings are as follows:

When people were asked whether they support military coups or not, 79.1 percent answered in the negative, while 17.1 percent said “yes” and 3.8 percent had no answer or idea (NAI). It is interesting to note that 24.4 percent of the supporters of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and 27.5 percent of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) said they condone coups. What does this mean?

At least one-quarter of the supporters of these (MHP and CHP) parties harbor mixed feelings. One explanation is that their failure to compete with the incumbent Justice and Development Party (AKP) has thwarted their vision. Their wrath has overcome their sense of democracy and their function as political parties. Another explanation is that a quarter of their followers never really believed in popular will and politics as the choice of the majority. Instead, they sought the state’s -- read this as the army’s -- guidance in public life.

When asked whether military coups have done any good in Turkey, the picture is more realistic. A full 11.7 percent of the electorate said “yes,” while 82.4 percent said “no.” Five percent had NAI. The most fervent opponent of coups is the (pro-Kurdish) Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) with 91.1 percent of BDP supporters against them. This is understandable because Kurds suffered the most during military rule and its repercussions.

Fourteen percent of CHP followers and 22.1 percent of MHP followers think coups have done good in Turkey, while this figure is below 10 percent in other parties.

When asked whether coups could be avoided “if politicians were more able and determined,” 74.3 percent of the electorate said “yes,” 21.8 percent said “no” and 4 percent had NAI. These figures indicate that while the majority of the people do not condone coups, they also blame the politicians for not being able and determined enough to prevent them. Those who think along these lines make up as much as 73-80 percent of the four political parties in Parliament.

When asked whether they find it appropriate and necessary to judge the putchists in a court of law or not, 67.7 percent of the electorate said “yes,” while 27.1 percent said “no” and 5.2 percent had NAI. When broken down into party affiliations, as opposed to 81.4 percent of AKP supporters and 86.7 percent of BDP supporters, only 50 percent of CHP and 46.6 percent of MHP followers support the prosecution and litigation of the putchists.

I will continue sharing the results of the survey with you. In any case it is obvious that there is a putchist streak in Turkish politics, even within the political parties that ought to be the guardians or at least agents of democracy. That is eerie to know.

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