Addressing the issue and remedies for resolution by İdris Bal*

Illustration: Orhan Nalın

March 28, 2012, Wednesday/ 18:12:00

In my last column I spoke of a culture of disobedience in Turkey. This mentality created the opportunity for military action and allowed for the rationalization of coups by intellectuals, civilians and those in the media that supported past military interventions. I posited that this is antithetical to democratic ideals and elaborated on the true cost of coups.

I noted earlier that coup plans are against the entire nation and, for this reason, a common stance should be adopted to address the issue regardless of political orientation. Beyond this general framework, there are some other measures to be taken, including the following:

1. Our nation deserves the best. And it deserves a first-class democracy. Therefore, the targeted models are those in the US and Western Europe. The state should be reformed based on these models and the relationships between institutions should be reviewed; our system should be modeled on the experiences and state infrastructure in these countries and the role their parliament, executive branch, military, intelligence, police and media play should be imported. For this reason, to address this issue a new and civilian constitution should be drafted immediately. In order to create a constitution that would erase the imprints of the constitutions made by the coup-makers, expand the sphere of freedoms and offer the standards of modern countries, multidimensional studies should be undertaken. However, the current composition of Parliament does not allow the relevant actors to accomplish this.

2. Attention should be paid to the distinction between a state governed by the rule of law and a state governed by law. A state governed by law is a state that enforces the laws in effect. A state governed by the rule of law, on the other hand, represents the implementation of legal rules and standards by legitimate representatives of the people who have taken democracy, human rights, justice, equality and other universal values into consideration. To this end, it cannot be said that ours is a state governed by the rule of law. The legal arrangements left over from the coup periods should be abolished and replaced by democratic arrangements and mechanisms.

Judicial independence, impartiality essential

3. In democracies, judicial independence and judicial impartiality are essential. A civilian judiciary should be established that is not politicized, is impartial, serves as arbiter and does not have a role in the military chain of command. The moves taken towards this end are proper and successful. The principle of separation of powers has been devised to prevent domination of democracies by the powerful, and to protect the people. The judiciary takes action to resolve disputes between different branches of power in accordance with the constitution. Therefore, the arbitration of the judiciary and its impartiality is extremely important. Judges should not have an ideology. If the judiciary is partial and ideological, it poses a grave problem; therefore, in our country, an independent and impartial judiciary is extremely necessary.

4. An independent, impartial and ideology-free judiciary is an assurance of peace, justice and democracy. Unity and integrity in the judiciary should be ensured. Distinguishing between the military judiciary and civilian judiciary is the greatest obstacle to obtaining justice. The judicial process must not be carried out by the military chain of command. If a military judiciary is to exist, it should deal solely with the internal affairs of military servicemen. Further arrangements should be introduced to make sure these missions and duties cannot be broadened by way of interpretation.

5. In democracies, the source of political legitimacy is popular choice. There is no institution or individual above the people and everybody should be held accountable to the people. To achieve this, transparency, accountability and controllability are fundamental principles. For this reason, every individual, every institution and every group should be transparent, accountable and controllable. The activities of the military and other institutions should be transparent and every measure should be taken to ensure this state of transparency. These activities should be open to media attention and judicial and political review.

6. Political administrations should be courageous and introduce reforms. Even though coup-makers implemented democratic order within a very short time after the military interventions, during the period of transition the state was redesigned; measures -- including changing the constitution -- were taken to ensure that anti-democratic forces gained privileges and became the guardians of civilian politics. Only after such measures were taken was the government transferred to civilian control. The civilian administrations that took over in the aftermath of the coups failed to introduce the necessary arrangements that would democratize the country. The current government, which has attracted popular support, should be more courageous and introduce further reforms. It should be remembered that concessions for anti-democratic interferences and initiatives will not resolve the problem; instead, they contribute to the persistence of the status quo.

Considering Western models

7. In introducing reforms to the state apparatus, Western models should be considered, democratic principles should be taken into account, the people should be referred to as the major source of legitimacy, it should be remembered that no institution or individual should be above the people and the focus should be on transparency, equality and serving the people where reforms by the state are concerned. It should be remembered that the state and its institutions have been designed for the people and for their peace and safety. The state is not the master of the people; it is at their service and at their disposal.

8. In addition to other state institutions, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should be reorganized in accordance with Western models in terms of its mission, responsibilities and status. The obligations of the army -- other than those relevant to external security -- that have been abused by juntas in the past should be abolished and the army should focus on external security alone.

9. In today’s world, an army should rely on advanced technology and self-sufficiency rather than strength in numbers if it is to act as an effective deterrent and prove successful in a possible conflict. For this reason, the number of soldiers should be reduced and the funds subsequently saved should be transferred to research and development. The national defense industry should be empowered and reorganized, including the training of reserve troops, who can be mobilized when necessary.

10. The TSK, which has recently been under the spotlight, should be self-critical of productivity, transparency, accountability, allegiance to democracy and other criteria. Legal arrangements introduced during coup eras -- like Article 35 of the Internal Service Law, which delegates a number of extraordinary duties to the armed forces -- should be abolished.

11. Reports on coups and similar allegations should be taken seriously and internal investigations should be performed within the army. If the allegations are true, an army eager to stage a coup is not in a position to fulfill its purpose and thus constitutes a weakness for our country. If some military servicemen are eager to stage and lead a coup and involve themselves in political matters, the armed forces should take measures to get rid of them.

12. No individual or institution is sacred. Nobody is irreplaceable in democracies and nothing is sacred, other than what has already been declared sacred. For this reason, no institution is immune to inspection or supervision in democracies. Transparency and productivity are necessities for any institution. Removal of those who have been involved in criminal activities from their posts in the military, intelligence agencies, police departments or other institutions is necessary for the sake of public choice and democracy.

13. The military structure and identity of the National Intelligence Organization (MİT) should be made more civilian. Current MİT staff should be subjected to a thorough inspection and supervision, and those who have been involved in illegal organizations and coup attempts should be removed and expelled.

14. The current system of promotion within the army should be changed. A new system based on productivity and the preferences of the elected government should be instituted. In compliance with democratic principles, the military and civilian bureaucracy should be restructured to make sure popularly elected politicians have a say in picking the top bureaucrats that they are going to work with. In universities, schools and the media it should be stressed that bureaucracy needs to be based on such principles as productivity, harmony, transparency and accountability.

Looking and military and politics

15. The military should be kept away from internal security and politics, and the gendarmerie -- which causes chaos for internal security -- should be abolished. At a time when many college graduates suffer from unemployment, individuals should be recruited as police officers and the police should be fully authorized with respect to internal security; this would be more in line with democratic principles.

16. Those involved in the coups staged in the past should be brought to trial. Even if those who staged the coups are dead, they should be held accountable. Nobody should ever think that they would get away with what they had done before. They should know for sure that the judiciary would hold them accountable eventually. In addition, the bill and cost of the coups would become visible when they were eventually brought before an independent judiciary. These legal processes would reveal the truth about the coups. The trials of former coup makers like Kenan Evren, as well actions taken to deal with coups and the pro-coup mindset, are both beneficial and the right steps to take. The judicial process would confirm that a coup is not acceptable, no matter how long ago it was staged. This would relieve the public; coups would be denigrated in the minds of the people, who would find coups unacceptable as a consequence. The judiciary should deal with the current coup attempts. This would relieve the people, hold the culprits accountable, deter other probable attempts and the relevant actors would be exonerated in cases based on ungrounded accusations.

17. It is the intelligence institutions that would be in a position to expose coup plans; in fact, the plans we are currently discussing were exposed by the intelligence agencies. But this is not enough. For further successes, early intelligence should be provided, allowing swift action. For this reason, there should be harmony, rather than competition between different intelligence institutions. The pro-coup mentality takes advantage of the lack of coordination between intelligence units. A structure that raises productivity and prevents wastage of resources needs to be created. For instance, police intelligence services may be restructured to become more independent. On the other hand, the MİT may focus on external intelligence-gathering. The collection of intelligence should not be the duty of the military anymore. With the help of strong intelligence, it would be possible to spot the pro-coup mindset in every institution and expose those connected to it.

18. All social and economic issues that the pro-coup mindset exploits should be resolved; democratic reforms should be made; ethnic, ideological and sectarian polarization should be taken care of; and the parties involved should be encouraged to maintain dialogue and promote cooperation. Otherwise, the pro-junta mindset would exploit them to justify further coup attempts.

19. Those figures whose work is based on their rank either give or take orders. If the civilian administration does not give orders and maintain control over the armed forces, the latter will give orders to the civilian administration. The armed forces should not be given the opportunity to give orders to elected figures; on the contrary, the civilian authority should be the party that is in control.

20. The strength of democracy is proportionate to the degree to which the armed forces are controlled. The more the armed forces are controlled, the greater the level of democracy that is observed in that country.

21. Political institutions should be empowered vis-à-vis coups. Public perception of political figures has been eroded: The corrupt, unethical lifestyle of some elected figures and civilian bureaucrats should be wiped out by the recruitment of dignified and talented individuals for positions of authority.

22. Courageous administrators should be assigned to critical posts; illegal actions and activities should be effectively addressed by the law. Administrators who fail to act bravely and decisively cannot prevent coups and would eventually fall under the control of pro-coup forces.

*Professor İdris Bal is a Justice and Development Party (AK Party) deputy.

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