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Turkey and the art of the coup

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erdogan.jpgThere can be few countries where the art of the coup is so finely honed as in Turkey, adapting as it does constantly to the spirit of the age, spawning over the decades its own enigmatic lexicon – the “Coup By Memorandum”, the “Post-Modern Coup”, the “Judicial Coup”, the ill-starred “e-Coup”.

Now newspapers (largely pro-government newspapers it should be said), gorge on tales of coup plots dubbed ‘Glove’, ‘Blonde Girl’ , ‘Moonlight’ and devote pages to a shadowy militant group code-named “Ergenekon”. Two retired military commanders, supposed members of the group, have been arrested at their homes on military compounds; a bold step by civilian authorities against an army that jealously guards its privileged status. Critics of Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan call the arrests, also netting businessmen and journalists, a ‘revenge action’ for moves by the conservative judiciary to shut his AK party on charges of Islamist subversion.  Ertugrul Ozkok, editor of Hurriyet, a newspaper critical of the government ,  suggested authorities were riding roughshod over judicial processes. If  things are as they seem, he said, “none of us can feel comfortable any more. Any one of us can be taken from our homes and held in custody.”

Erdogan, facing a possible court ban from party politics, might also rest uneasily these sultry July nights.

Some coups have shaken Turkey to the core, others brought more subtle change. All have dealt a blow to democracy. A 1960 military putsch sent a prime minister and two other ministers to the gallows (as well as testing the unity of the forces themselves), four in the last 50 years have toppled governments. Turkish political folklore is rich with other conspiracies supposedly involving the “Deep State” – a nebulous fraternity of militant nationalists in the security services, military, judiciary and civil service.

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