The “Post Modern Coup”

The coup known as “post modern coup” is a milestone in Turkish democracy history, as it divided the political islamist actors (National Outlook) into two different camps and one of them has turned into a party now known as the AK Party.…

In 1997, a soft coup broke out in Turkey known as the February 28 Process. The path going to the February 28 Process must be evaluated with a multidimensional analysis. The strengthening of the Islamic actors in both political and economic spheres which started as a result of Özal’s policies led to the variation of identities in Islamic terms. Besides economic identities, the 1990s witnessed the emergence of ethnic and religious identities. These new identities caused the dissolution of the traditional voter attitudes besides making center right parties lose electoral support. In the 1995 general elections, The Welfare Party (WP) became the triumphant party which created a considerable amount of tension in many civilian and military circles. These people claimed that the WP did not believe in democracy and secularism as the sole characteristics of the regime. The February 28 Process was taken into account as a process of change which was firstly recognized not by the politicians but by the military elites. The military intervention in 1997 did not overthrow the democratic mechanisms, whereas making it function under military tutelage.

One of the developments which led to the February 28 Process was the role of the mainstream Turkish media. Mainstream media of the time-being helped the TAF make the public feel alarmed about secularism. Indeed, besides artificial agendas of the so-called threats directed to secularism and democracy, some activities of the WP played a determinant role in causing this military intervention. For instance, Erbakan’s visit to Libya can be seen as an important cornerstone in the path to the February 28 Process. In addition to that, Erbakan’s visit to Iran alarmed the generals . Although the main motives behind this “soft coup” were similar to its predecessors, this coup was carried out differently from its predecessors in a number of ways: First, it was not carried out with guns and tanks but with “civil” society organizations’ campaigns, media and judges’ support. Second, the military elites used briefings, conferences, and regularly-organized public declarations which were addressing to the threats of Political Islam and Kurdish nationalism against the survival of the state .. Hence the justification of this intervention was also prepared with the help of these “non-military” tools. Unlike its predecessors, the military intervention in 1997 made Turkey witness some kind of cooperation between the TAF and the non-governmental organizations (“civil” society organizations).These organizations played a crucial role in justifying the military’s intervention into politics. In the February 28 Process, a series of legal regulations were carried out which increased the capabilities of the TAF in political and administrative realms. One of these legal regulations was the Public Act of The Prime Ministry Crisis Management Center (Başbakanlık Kriz Yönetim Merkezi Yönetmeliği).

It is argued that, under the guise of safeguarding the secular character of the regime, the TAF in fact was imposing a certain kind of world view by some kind of social-engineering…Another argument related to that military intervention is about the state behavior towards secularism and identity issues. Afterwards making the democratically-elected government headed by Islamist leader Erbakan lose office, the military elites played a key role in reformulating the identity-related policies of the state as a zero-sum game . The claim that the secular character of the regime had been under a serious threat in that process, made Turkey experience a plenty of unfair operations towards religious people. At this juncture, the role of the mainstream Turkish media was undisputedly dominant in making the Islamic identities of the religious people seem as a source of internal security issue. In that period, important steps were taken in order to eliminate the religion-oriented elements from the public sphere. In combating the so-called “Islamic threat” within the Army, a body named the Western Working Group was established. In addition, the “civil” society organizations increased their campaigns against the government in order to weaken the legitimacy of the politicians. Finally, Erbakan was forced to resign, and the democraticallyelected government once again lost power by the leading of the military. In 1997, once again the Turkish Army proved that it was the sole protector of the regime no matter how strong a political party’s electoral basis had been. The post modern coup of 1997 is known as the black page of Turkish political history.

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