In the year since Turkey’s failed coup, democracy has become near dictatorship | Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu | Opinion

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Today marks the first anniversary of a heinous attempted coup in Turkey. A group of soldiers, belonging to Fethullah Gülen’s network, led an attempt to overthrow Turkish democracy. The attempt foundered in the face of the resistance of our people and the overwhelming majority of the Turkish armed forces. There were 249 people who lost their lives in the events of 15 July. Elected representatives rushed to the parliament to defend our democracy. MPs from my party were at the forefront of this effort. I immediately condemned the coup attempt and instructed our members to defend the parliament. Government sources and media circulated my condemnation message all night so it was this unified stance that helped to secure the coup’s failure.

The next day could have been the start of a new and democratic era in Turkey. Instead, in the year since, Turkish democracy has given way to a near-dictatorial regime. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, the president, exploited the crisis to declare a state of emergency, led a purge against all oppositional voices and started ruling by decree.

If we want to eradicate the coups d’etat from Turkey’s future what needs to be done is the very opposite. Coups do not take place in countries where democratic institutions are strong, where parliamentary supervision, judicial control and transparency provided by a free media prevent abuses of power and where there is a societal consensus against the use of violence to solve problems.

All these tenets of democracy have been severely weakened in Turkey over the past year. After an illegitimate referendum, held under the state of emergency and in breach of Turkish electoral laws and international standards, the ruling Justice and Development party (AKP) imposed a sui generis political system worthy of an authoritarian state, and bearing no resemblance to the presidential systems of democratic countries.

This system enables the president to appoint indirectly all judges and prosecutors. In any event, any judge who contradicts the government faces the risk of immediate removal and even arrest. Parliament’s powers of supervision are seriously reduced. Even debating this becomes absurd as 12 MPs, including one from my party, are currently in prison. Similarly, since the declaration of the state of emergency, 150 journalists and numerous academics and public servants, in total more than 50,000 people, have been jailed.

Secondly, if this attempted coup was to give way to a true democracy Turkey needed to elucidate properly what happened on the night of 15 July. Unfortunately, our attempts at doing this have been blocked by the government. A parliamentary commission set up with this mandate could not question the chief of joint staff and the head of national intelligence. The limited information that we have is insufficient to pinpoint the true identity of those behind the attempted overthrow. Moreover, we also need to hold to account not only those who are criminally liable but also those who are politically responsible. We need to point out that almost all the generals who are currently in prison were promoted to that rank by the AKP. The ruling party supported the Gülenist networks against their opponents, in government, in the bureaucracy and in business for years. They fell apart in 2012-13 not because of a conflict of principle, but because of a conflict of interest. The true history of 15 July cannot be written without this political background.

Finally, the government argues that it has been adopting these new measures to defend democracy. Imprisoning MPs, journalists, academics, judges or employing widespread torture is not a defence of democracy. Labelling at least half of your population as “terrorist” is not a defence of democracy. And concentrating power in the hands of one person without any checks or balances is an assault on the very notion of democracy.



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