The Turkish Coup, Part III

Turkey photo
Photo by bykst

Last week, we recounted the events of Turkey’s recent coup and some of our thoughts about why the coup failed and who was behind it. This week we will discuss the unfolding purge, including the role of Fethullah Gulen, and discuss the impact on regional geopolitics. In this week’s report, we will examine the market effects of the coup and its aftermath.

The Purge

At first blush, this coup seemed to be the work of Kemalists in the military. For example, the coup plotters forced a Turkish state media broadcaster to read a prepared statement which accused the government of “eroding democratic and secular rule of law,” as they declared martial law. This is fairly standard coup behavior. However, nearly from the start, President Erdogan accused Gulen of fomenting the coup. We will examine this issue below.

The scope of those affected by the purge is rather large.

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Although a bit more than 15k of military and police have been removed from their posts (and in many cases, under arrest), the education sector has been hit hard, with nearly 28k being removed from their jobs, including 21k teachers who have had their licenses revoked and nearly 1,600 university deans who have been forced to resign. The purge continues to widen and it appears that the Gulenists are the primary target. For example, Gulenists are deeply imbedded in education which explains why Erdogan has targeted academia.

In addition to the purge, Erdogan has implemented a state of emergency that will allow him to rule by decree. We would not be surprised to see this decree extended. Erdogan is not going to let this crisis pass without extracting the most value he can for it. We suspect Erdogan intends to reshape Turkey’s government to resolve which Islamic group is going to dominate the country’s future.

Did Gulen Lead the Coup?

At first glance, a Gulenist coup is out of character, while a Kemalist-inspired takeover would fit the historical pattern. As we noted in Part I, periodic coups and persistent threats of military intervention were a predominant feature of Turkey’s history from its founding after WWI until the late 1990s. However, the two purges noted in Part I have mostly ended the military’s influence on the political process.

The next battle for the domination of Turkey’s political establishment appears to be between two Islamic-leaning leaders, Erdogan and Gulen. Therefore, even though the statement released to the media by the coup conspirators had all the elements of a secular coup, Erdogan’s claims that Gulen was behind it, or at least inspired it, cannot be easily dismissed.

The Case against Gulen

The Turkish press has reported that one of the soldiers who took the military’s Chief of Staff, Gen. Hulusi Akar, into custody told the general that he should contact Gulen.1 Although there is some concern over the reliability of the claims, as it was likely these coup participants were tortured, the statement has not been denied by the plotters. Of course, Gulen himself has denied any participation in the coup.

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