Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Changes in Turkey’s Political Landscape Affect Democratic Consolidation and U.S. Relationship
Press Release

RELEASE: Changes in Turkey’s Political Landscape Affect Democratic Consolidation and U.S. Relationship

On the changing military dynamic: No More Coup d’États in Turkey

Political party development: Meet the ‘New’ Republican Party in Turkey

Washington, D.C. — The era of military interference in politics is ending for good in Turkey with almost the entire top military brass having stepped down last week in protest over what Chief of the General Staff Isik Kosaner called government and government-aligned media efforts “to turn the great nation against their armed forces.” As Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan readily accepted the resignations and will name the replacements this week, the Center for American Progress released an analysis of the history and judicial issues precipitating the military resignations in “No More Coup d’États in Turkey,” and an evaluation of ideological shifts within Turkey’s main opposition party—the CHP, which may contribute to a renewed and substantive bilateral dialogue with the United States, in “Meet the ‘New’ Republican Party in Turkey.”

After this week, the military will never return to the commanding heights of the Turkish state, yet it is still unclear whether the AKP’s victory will ultimately be in the name of democracy. If anything, the rule of law issues that led to the recent resignations pose a real challenge for the ruling party, as the integrity of Turkey’s democratic consolidation has implications for both the stability of the region and U.S. national security interests. More than 100 military officers, including top-ranking generals, have been detained as part of a series of investigations into alleged coup plots and detention periods can last months, even years, before a judge reviews that case and dismisses it. During this time, military officials are prevented from receiving promotions, a practice that renewed confrontation between the military command and Prime Minister Erdogan.

Despite the absence of 4 of the 16 members, the governing AKP party maintained a business-as-usual attitude during the assembled the Supreme Military Council on Monday. The meetings with military leaders will continue until Thursday and they are expected to conclude with the former commander of the gendarmerie, Necdet Ozel, officially appointed as general chief of the armed forces. Given Turkey’s recent history of military coups, recent developments signal a rapid transformation of Turkey’s governmental structures toward more democratic institutions such as civilian control of the military, but the failure to meet minimal judicial standards is especially worrying and further consolidation of power at Prime Minister Erdogan’s office could raise its own problems in the future.

For almost a decade, AKP representatives have held the monopoly on shaping the country’s image abroad and playing a relevant role in the Washington policy conversation, but given shifts within Turkey’s main opposition Republican Party, or CHP, this dynamic may change. Traditionally closely aligned with the military, the CHP has been largely supportive of the move toward civilian control and, for the first time in many years, they sent a high-level delegation to visit U.S. policymakers this spring, introducing them to the “new CHP” and engaging in public and private conversations on Turkey. U.S. policymakers have the opportunity to use changes underway in Turkey in order to broaden bilateral dialogue on the issues both countries have a stake in.

Over the past year, the CHP began a painful and controversial process of emancipating itself from its nationalist past and the party’s renewed interest in the United States as well as its willingness to revisit some of the uncompromising positions it took in the past mirror the massive change the party is undergoing right now. This process of reform is still incomplete, and the prospects for real change are uncertain. But from a U.S. perspective, it is important to appreciate those changes, given the depth of the party’s tradition and considering that Turkish society is preparing to draft a new constitution and implementing a new package of Kurdish reforms—tasks that will be impossible without the support of the CHP.

These expected reforms will test whether the “new CHP” will continue its path toward modern social democracy and increased engagement with contemporary dynamics of Turkish society. If they succeed, while deftly navigating a tense relationship with the AKP, the CHP can establish itself as an effective voice in the parliament and could become an important voice in the foreign policy discussion across the range of U.S.-Turkish bilateral issues. In addition to being vital to Turkey’s future, Kurdish reform is intimately tied to core U.S. interests in the region with Syria, Israel, Egypt, and Libya all located within the Turkish sphere of influence. The regional U.S. engagement strategy needs Turkey as an anchor; the United States needs to engage the entire Turkish political spectrum given the country’s importance. Even though the new CHP is in opposition for at least another four years, it has a role to play in this important partnership.

On the changing miliary dynamic: No More Coup d’États in Turkey

Political party development: Meet the ‘New’ Republican Party in Turkey

To speak with CAP experts on this topic, please contact Christina DiPasquale at 202.481.8181 or [email protected].

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