Ali Duran Topuz

Ali Duran Topuz

The Mechanism and Language of the Coup and the Need for a Turkey Without a Parliament

"What the July 15 conspirators and the government had in common was the abolition of the parliament"

What the July 15 conspirators and the government had in common was the abolition of the parliament. There were two reasons for this: To exclude the Kurds from politics and to establish the dictatorship necessary for economic policy.

Six years have passed, but everything is still murky. What forces were behind it, what did the organizational chart look like, who was involved and who wasn't, was it really a coup, or was it all theater? The questions remain, the answers lead nowhere. Those who call it theater speak with a blend of the belief that no evil can come from anywhere but the government and the government's unwillingness to shed light on what happened. Thus, the result is demagogic speeches based on conviction and sentiment rather than rational arguments. There is nothing for the government to clarify, the "FETO members" plotted, the nation punished them, so the "FETO" was eliminated, and in the meantime, we eliminated all those who did not agree with our government, individuals and institutions, thanks to the mercy of Allah. And we took the opportunity to establish the new regime.


If it had been really and exclusively the forces loyal to the Gulen clique that acted alone, we would have received very satisfactory information from the government today about who did it, what the hierarchy was like, which people and elements were involved and which were not. Because it would have strengthened the government's hand considerably if the official forces that stooped so low as to fire on the public had been known to all. There is no apparent reason that would justify those who call it theater, but it is undeniable that the reason for the government's reluctance to clarify is the existence of a broad and deep zone of darkness that works in its favor.

By focusing on the significance of what happened after that night, rather than what happened that night, we can gain a more useful perspective to clarify that night. Moreover, these perspectives can help us understand what happened before that night and even help us better comprehend the mechanisms of the coup. In fact, I would argue that this is the case: the endless talking about that night, the constant theorizing about the strangeness of what happened, instead of shedding light on the matter, has drawbacks that allow the government to move more easily along the path it has since taken. This is because the government has instrumentalized that night in two ways to achieve the governmental and societal regulations it seeks: First, as is well known, it began building a new regime by completely reversing the law through decrees and other legal-administrative regulations and measures. Second, it turned July 15 into a kind of founding narrative, transforming it into a source of ideological discursive legitimacy necessary for building the new regime, and it continues to do so.


In short, any argument based on the idea that everything was a theater or a controlled coup against the government's narrative of a "bloody uprising by FETO members with their global and local collaborators" will be in the benefit of the government. Because one of the necessary elements for the "heroic epic" narrative to take hold is the discourse that the whole thing was a "betrayal scenario." While no concrete evidence or strong arguments can be found to support the discourses of betrayal, theater or controlled coup, when the horror caused by the forces that emerged on that bloody night, combined with the murdered people and the concerns about what might happen if the coup is "successful", the discourse of "heroism" is always closer to triumphing over the discourses of betrayal, theater, etc. The fact that the government closes all doors against the demand to clarify what happened is not only due to fear of what will be revealed, but also to this convenience. The contest of "heroic" and "despicable" speeches does not illuminate anything, nor does it help in understanding what is happening, even partially.


Now, after some remarks on the events after the coup, I will take a look at the developments before the coup and then come back to the present. Now, after some remarks on the events after the coup, I will take a look at the developments before the coup and then come back to the present.

After the coup, the government, in a hysteria, threw people out of the public sector, closed institutions and invented new ones, but the most important change, in my opinion, is that it zeroed out the parliament. Efforts to devalue the parliament, abolish the separation of powers mechanism, and suppress the legislative and judicial branches in favor of the executive had, of course, been evident even before the coup. Nor was the desire for a presidential system a secret, as he did his best to turn the June 7 and November 1 elections into a "presidential referendum." But if we look at the debates about the "presidential system" in these two elections, he did not dream of an "invalid parliament." However, the coup offered exactly this opportunity: in the newly established regime, the parliament was pushed into a weaker position than the parliaments not only in a presidential system with good or bad democratic ideas, but also in the dictatorial, oligarchic, sometimes absolutely monarchy-like structures that we see under the name of presidency. The "Millet Alliance," now also known as the "Six Opposition," is a response to this change by rallying around the discourse of the "strong parliamentary system" (I say "discourse" because there is not much in the way of "ideas").


So why has the parliamentary system been pushed back so far? Is it the dictatorial ambitions and dreams of Erdogan and Bahceli? Is it the evil within the two men and their ideology that has led to this? This question actually takes us back to June 7: When the HDP was founded and announced for the first time that it would run in the elections as a party and not as independent candidates, it did not fall below the electoral threshold, as all Erdogan opponents and perhaps Erdogan supporters believed, but managed to become the third largest party in parliament.

When discussing the successes and failures of the parliamentary system in Turkey in the context of its own history, besides the abstract democratic references, it is necessary to take a closer look at a concrete issue: The Kurdish question. In essence, the parliament has always worked with the idea of keeping the Kurds out of the political decision-making and administrative implementation processes. The Kurds have succeeded in undermining this goal of the parliament and the administrative structure through local elections in regions where they have a majority and through independent candidates in general elections. Their success in local elections has become quite substantial over time, and this has been accompanied by a strong presence in parliament. This proved that the "parliamentary system" can no longer prevent the Kurds from participating in sovereignty as equal citizens.


The old regime was left with basically two paths: Either to act in a way to adapt to this new reality with democratic considerations, or to refuse to accept this redistribution and reorganize everything from scratch. This is essentially where the mechanics of the coup started to operate. Amidst the abundance of "Kemalist" references in the "declaration" of the forces that carried out the coup, quotations from human rights rhetoric, and the verbiage based on the terminology of the rule of law, there is another aspect that cannot be hidden: Accusing the government (i.e. Erdogan, their target) of not fighting terrorism. The relevant sentence is as follows: "Terrorism, which the political authority has refrained from combating due to erroneous decisions taken by the government, has escalated and has claimed the lives of many innocent citizens and security officers fighting against terrorists." This is a very clear accusation, especially about the resolution process. Naturally, this was one of the aims of the coup: " pave the way for an effective fight against terrorism and all forms of terrorism,"


To summarize, the coup plotters include the HDP's June 7 success, which was brought about by a democratic moment in the "parliamentary system," among the reasons for the coup, although they did not mention it by name. Erdogan's (and Bahceli's) zeroing out of parliament after the coup is essentially based on the same idea. So what does it mean that these two forces, hostile to each other, meet at the same point? Are we to conclude that there was no coup, but that it was a theater? The answer to this question may lead to a better understanding of the "mechanism of the coup." It may even allow us to formulate some theses about the day and night of July 15. If the current parliamentary system was no longer able to distract the Kurds from their demand for a common sovereignty, it is understandable that the coup plotters, who acted to liquidate this system, accused the government of not "fighting terrorism" but rather of making "wrong decisions" that harmed the fight, namely the "solution processes." The situation becomes even more clear if we recall the approach of the three previous coups to this issue: the May 27 coup plotters, despite the constitution they drafted, which was replete with "democratic" expressions, norms and institutions, never ceased their unlawful attacks, which they deemed "Kurds" deserving of: For example, they did not include the Kurds in the amnesties they issued. Likewise, with the DDKD and DDKO trials, the March 12 military continued uninterruptedly with the main policy of excluding the Kurds. The September 12 coup leaders acted in a way that guaranteed this goal, both with their practices in Diyarbakır Prison and with the regime they created; this order established by Kenan Evren and his friends even went so far as to prescribe the deportation of masses of people from Dersim.


Let us continue with another observation from this little history of coups: In the series of coups that began with May 27, based on our knowledge of both the successful coups and the failed coups (Talat Aydemir, March 9, etc.) and the information that emerged after the coups, we found that quite a few individuals and groups within the military and, of course, within the judiciary and other high bureaucracies were constantly preparing a coup or were willing to collaborate with those who wanted to stage a coup. This reality was constantly evident after September 12, both in the February 28 and April 17 interventions (e-Memorandum) and in the debates over appointments to the General Staff and the infiltration of the military by the Gulen sect. The discussions surrounding the activities of some civilian rallies, such as the Republican rallies, showed that there was little doubt about this reality in ruling and opposition circles.

In light of this information, let's look at the night of the coup: Perhaps there really was only one force mobilized, or perhaps there was more than one force. Perhaps those who mobilized as the "single force" split up during the course of the coup, or there was a series of shifts between the various forces mobilized. While those who mobilized "failed," the success of the suppression was realized within the framework of the alliances that were formed, dissolved, and re-formed that night.


It is one of these factors that is the reason for the government's reluctance to illuminate that night. But this reality also underlies the government's behavior after the coup was crushed, as if it had not been crushed but carried out by the government itself: to keep the Kurds away from demands for a joint hegemony is the fundamental alliance of the coup plotters and their suppressors. Erdogan thus seized the opportunity to instrumentalize the strengthening of the authoritarian-totalitarian structure, which is also necessary for the survival of the neoliberal policies he advocates. This also explains the characteristics of the power bloc that began before the coup but took its final form after the coup. The far-right religious-racist coalition between Erdogan and Bahceli was reinforced that very night by the participation of forces within the republican bureaucracy. From this point on, I will return to the issue of the parliamentary system, in particular by trying to highlight the Six-Party Table's emphasis on a strengthened parliamentary system and its stance on the Kurdish issue. But this has already become too long for today, so let me leave it for next week.


To avoid misunderstandings, I must first state that I am not saying that the coup attempt and the alliance to suppress it are only linked to the Kurdish issue. Wherever neoliberal policies are in place, they need authoritarian-totalitarian, that is, fascistic governments in order to be implemented and to ensure their continuity. The harsh attitude towards class-based organizations, activism and ideas in the aftermath of the coup, just like in the aftermath of September 12, is proof of this. Since this article focuses specifically on the links between the Kurdish issue, the parliamentary system and the coup, the economic or "class" dimension of the issue is limited to such mention. Given the state of emergency created and maintained after the coup and the actions of the state's security forces, the need to focus much more on the political economy and class aspect of the issue is already apparent.


Indeed, many conclusions can be drawn by comparing the language, style, and predominant elements in the content of the declarations issued after the three previous "successful" coups. I tried to do that right after the coup attempt, using the quote "We believe in NATO, we are loyal to CENTO" from the May 17 statement as the title. In a sense, today's article can be considered a continuation of that analysis.

The July 15 declaration, ironically, like previous coup declarations, claimed to remove "obstacles to democracy." The declaration's emphasis on the "unitary state" is essentially linked to its emphasis on Erdogan and his government's false stance "against terrorism," i.e., the Kurdish issue. Apart from the "faith in NATO" that links the three declarations, July 15 was also notable for its emphasis on human rights discourse and the rule of law, but this emphasis was not related to social groups fighting for human rights and the rule of law, but to US and NATO officials trying to legitimize global military operations. What was the point of democracy, human rights, and the rule of law when they were introduced by an apparatus that had set out to overthrow the elected government and beat the Kurds even worse?


The fact that I keep away from theories that that night was a complete fiction or a controlled coup or an attempted coup that was subsequently controlled does not mean, of course, that I consider those possibilities completely out of the realm of possibility. I would not be surprised if tomorrow, when the government changes, evidence emerges to support these theses. It is not for nothing it was said that "the tricks of the Ottomans never end." But in any case, even if it was orchestrated, it would be more useful to look at what happened before the attempt and what happened after it was suppressed to understand why there was a need for it. In my opinion, it was not theater or fiction, but more than one force, which leaned on junta traditions, was mobilized, alliances were dissolved and reshaped during the operation. One of the reasons for the government's reluctance to illuminate the affair is to avoid the need to prosecute those who played a role in those shifts. For this reason, the coup trials have been more about selecting victim suspects to satisfy public opinion than trying to reach the real perpetrators and shed light on the matter. Cadets, low-ranking military personnel or ordinary privates who found themselves in front of the court without understanding what was going on became the victims of this approach.


Despite their best efforts, the government has been unable to turn July 15 into a "founding narrative." One of the most important reasons behind this is the unwillingness to explain what happened on the night of the coup. The problems caused by the lack of convincing evidence and arguments cannot always be overcome with the rhetoric of enmity and outrage. More important, however, is the economic devastation that actually began before the coup attempt and accompanied the construction of the new regime after the suppression, which has been making its impact felt month after month. If we take into account the growing interest in the struggles of workers in various sectors in the last two years, it would not be an exaggeration to say that the idea that the government is responsible for the policies that produce widening and deepening impoverishment is strengthening. In fact, if the Kurdish issue is one point that binds the participants of the bloc that constitutes the new regime, the class issue is another. The love of the boss clubs including TUSIAD (Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association), those who directly benefit from economic policies, and public and private sector executive bureaucrats, for the new regime stems not from being caught up in the rhetoric of hostility and betrayal, but from their commitment to policies that will maintain their comfort. This leads to the fact that even if the night of the coup was not a theater, the anniversaries remain at best a spectacle. In order to attract the attention of those who are getting poorer day by day, putting figures in white helmets on stage does not seem to do the trick.

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