15th of July 2016 would always go down into the historic memorabilia of NATO’s second largest Army-Turkey. It was like a Hollywood flick, unexpected that caught not only the world off guard but also Turks themselves and their eccentric leader, Tayyip Erdogan (Who was the prime target). It would well be remembered by Turks and the international community for erasing or denting the once perceived notion about the country as “bastion of stability” that is strategically placed in a region plagued with political upheavals and volatility.
Having ascended power as a prime minister more than a decade ago, Tayyip Recep Erdogan, now Turkey’s president has overseen the dramatic rise of “Ataturk’s country” from a torpid and recessive economic powerhouse to a burgeoning and healthy one now rated as 15th largest economy in the World. The AK Party’s leader’s CV ever since he stepped into the country’s political arena has been impressive and intimidating but, the recent failed coup attempt on his government, might just call into question the 62 year old leader’s political resume.
On a week vacation from Ankara, Turkey’s president was cooling off in South sea resort of Marmaris when the coup plotters struck on Friday of that fateful day. In the middle of that failed conquest, the coup plotters were reported to have announced that they “are taking over in order to return the country’s secularism status”. A policy that was part of the integral and institutional groundwork of Turkey’s founding General, Ataturk.
Hence, return to secularism meant that Erdogan has gradually drifted from Turkey’s secularist posture to an Islamic one. This anger may just be one of several undisclosed discontentment the coup plotters have against the president. No doubt about Erdogan’s sterling rule ever since he took over as president in 2014. However, is his penchant for absolute power that has got oppositions and critics worried. While he served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014, the constitution devolved power thereby reducing powers in the presidency. A political arrangement he gradually changed to suit his ambition and consolidate his hold on power.
Under Erdogan’s sinister plot, Turkey now has a powerful and influential president at the helm of affairs-A threatening situation that has undermined the country’s democracy in recent times. Despite this shortcoming, the coup plotters were still unable to win over the populace. In this ‘slug fest’, it was the 62 year old president that swayed the population with his ‘rapturous’ and rallying call to the citizens to storm the streets and evict the coup plotters.
The president won this contest because Turks were already fed up of the military and weren’t ready to tolerate any form of incursion into the country’s political landscape under any garb despite their leader’s autocratic tendencies. The coup plotters failed because of the peoples’ will, something Erdogan must be thankful for and probably seize the event to address the causes rather than accuse others for his own self-destructive actions.
Still seething and angry at the political culprits, Erdogan has unceremoniously embarked on a ‘kamikaze’ swooping on anybody that might have been directly or indirectly linked to the coup. In his fury, the 62 year old has borne his fangs down on the judiciary-a vital arm in a democratic institution-by arresting 140 senior judges and another 2,475 in lower courts.
In this ‘dirty fight’, he hasn’t spared civil servants and popular Turkish footballer Hakan Sukur whose arrest he has ordered. He has purged 9000 workers from the interior ministry, 9,322 under investigation, and has suspended 15,200 from the ministry of education. While in the army over 100 generals have been detained.
Not contented with this onslaught, the president has turned his direction towards one-time ally and Islamic cleric Fettulah Gulen who is on self-exile in the US, accusing him of being behind the failed coup to remove him. Consequently, he demanded for his extradition from Washington-a request the Obama government has turned down demanding Erdogan proves the cleric’s involvement in the failed coup.
Though the coup that left 263 dead and 1,400 wounded is treasonable and deserves to be punished, the manner and tactics employed by the president is as worrying and condemn able as the treasonable actions of the perpetrators. Trampling on the constitution with impunity all in the name of bringing the coup plotters and those considered to be accomplices is a dangerous and unrewarding precedent for a country that is an active player in NATO and also plotting an EU ambition.
Ankara has a pivotal role to play on the global scene; her strategic location acting as a buffer between two continents makes her a fulcrum of attention within Europe, Middle East and the world at large. Therefore, Tayyip Erdogan has to slow down on his unrelenting crackdown that has somewhat vindicated his critics who see another “Putin” in the Turkish leader. Justifiably because, his actions after the failed coup coupled with his ambition to project a neo-ottoman foreign policy and his apparent blackmail on Washington to choose between the “Turkish state and FetullahGulen” who he claimed masterminded the putsch mirrored a “putinesque”.
Turkey’s strongman has appropriated more powers to himself after the coup by influencing the legislature to allow him bypass bureaucratic and legal hurdles in making arrests and unleashing Turkish security operatives on those he perceived as accomplices in the botched coup. A situation he has exploited to further asphyxiate his opponents and critics.
Blaming a foreign power and prominent opposition strongmen for the failed coup is uncalled for. It resembles a propagandist tool employed by Erdogan to hide his own shortcomings as a leader.
It should be noted that any form of backdoor and illegitimate political move most especially military coups against a legitimate political authority of a state is undemocratic and treasonable. Hence, the failed coup in Turkey is illegal and must be condemned.
However, a leader should know he can’t have 100% support; criticism and oppositions will always arise especially when there are loopholes in his policies. Bet, the Turkish president had some.
But, with the dust settling down and Erdogan still in power, the time to mend the crack is now. Rather than embark on smear campaigns, blames and arrests, the Turkish president should take an introspective look into his style of leadership that has seen him evolve from a moderate to autocratic and from ditching Ataturk’s legacy of a secular Turkey to Islamizing it just because he wants to project a new ottoman power.
“A good leader is a listening leader that accepts criticism when he’s wrong”. Tayyip Erdogan can still be that leader provided he stops blaming others and admits his shortcomings too.