Last week’s failed coup in Turkey seems to have had the opposite result its perpetrators had intended. Instead of weakening President Tayyip Erdogan’s position it appears to have made him even stronger.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics, first as prime minister and then as president since 2003, will certainly capitalise on developments to change the constitution and formalise a more robust role for the office he now holds and which officially has no executive powers.
The coup has proved once again that Erdogan enjoys wide support among the Turkish population, although his many followers come from the right, religious and nationalistic wing of the country’s electorate.
People responded to his call and took to the streets, fighting the plotters together with the forces loyal to the President. That allowed the authorities to purge institutions, with thousands dismissed or arrested across the military, judiciary and interior ministry.
Turkish government officials have hailed the defeat of the coup as a victory for democracy at a time when human rights activists and international observers warn the country is fast slipping toward authoritarianism, pointing to the high number of arrests of academics, intellectuals, journalists and legislators.
Scenes of Erdogan loyalists savagely beating young soldiers and the President advocating bringing back the death penalty didn’t help to ease these serious concerns.
Only recently the West started to understand that, whilst the Erdogan government is democratically elected, it is certainly not liberal. There is no free news media, the rule of law is patchy and only Erdogan’s AKP party supporters can enjoy freedom of protest.
The President may have emerged the winner of another battle with the secular military of Turkey. But his relations with the US and EU administrations has been weakened. Turkey’s role in the region will be seriously tested, despite its rapprochement with Israel and Russia.
As far as Cyprus is concerned, it remains to be seen whether the turbulent times in Turkey’s internal political scene will tighten Ankara’s grip in the north and toughen further its positions in the peace talks.