The people feared and were intimidated by the armed forces and did not take to the streets when the military moved in. So it was always easy for a well-organized clique in the military to overthrow the government. Taking over the governmental machine was enough to claim a successful coup. The people, who had always felt the iron hand of the state, would be silenced, subdued and suppressed without much effort.
This relationship seems to be changing. A survey by the Metropoll company, conducted by a team of academics, including myself, reveals that 66 percent of the people in Turkey would resist a future coup attempt. This amounts to a paradigm shift in Turkish political culture traditionally submissive to power.
There might be some exaggeration in the responses of the people, but one should never underestimate the people. It is best that no one tests the determination of the people on this matter. If a group of coup plotters doubts its repressive and silencing power over the people, it cannot attempt one.
Another bit of good news is that 79 percent of the people are categorically against the idea of a military coup. This is high by Turkish standards because throughout years of military coups, the coup plotters tried to create a perception that “under some circumstances” a coup could be justified. Reasons given to explain the coups were to protect secularism, to secure the integrity of the country and to put an end to ideological violence etc. Such thinking assumes that the military is more patriotic, more efficient and more trustworthy in comparison to civilian institutions of the state. It now appears that the people no longer take all these fallacies seriously.
This points to a higher awareness about the outcomes of a military coup, which is reflected in an answer concerning the cost and benefits of military regimes. Eighty-two percent of people think that military coups are harmful to the country. Only 12 percent say they are useful for the country. This is still high, of course, from a liberal democratic perspective, but given the past activities of various juntas and groups who tried to prepare the people for a military coup, this figure shows that these psychological operations have not produced the intended outcomes.
Moreover, the expectation for a military coup is low. Only 14 percent of the population expects a military coup. Again this may seem high but we must remember the recent trial of the failed coup and the atmosphere constructed in favor of a military coup during the Justice and Development Party (AK Party) governments over the years. All these are signals the people have sent to the military: Stay away from politics and do your own professional job.
One of the reasons why we conducted a survey on coups and coup attempts was the current trials. Consequently, we asked the people about the trials currently taking place. An overwhelming majority (68 percent) support the trials. I think this is important to take note of. People do not doubt the legitimacy of the trials contrary to images being created abroad about these cases. The trials of Ergenekon, Balyoz and the Sept. 12 and Feb. 12 coups and coup attempts are all viewed by the majority as “right and necessary.”
In short, people in this country do not want or expect another military coup. Moreover, they want the perpetrators of the past coups to be tried. I think this is a good sign, pointing to the fact that the militaristic culture of the people might be in a process of transformation, and hence the elements of a consolidated democracy are emerging in the political culture.