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Radicalization of a National Dialogue

Author: Steven A. Cook, Eni Enrico Mattei Senior Fellow for Middle East and Africa Studies
July 17, 2008


After almost six years of political stability and democratic progress, Turkey is once again in turmoil. This turn of events should not be terribly surprising, however. The roots of the country’s present instability date back to April 2007 and the struggle over who would succeed Ahmet Necdet Sezer as Turkey’s eleventh president. When Abdullah Gul, the foreign minister and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) deputy leader, finally became head of state last August over the objections of the military establishment, it was abundantly clear to most observers of Turkish politics that it would only be a matter of time before the officers and their civilian allies responded.

For the army to accept passively a Gul presidency and an AKP dominated parliament would have required the General Staff to abdicate its historic role in the Turkish political system—a step the officers are decidedly unwilling to take. Although the days of putting tanks and troops on the streets of Ankara and Istanbul are long gone, Turkey’s military establishment has a long reach. Like-minded members of the bureaucracy such as the state prosecutor and the Kemalist stronghold that is the judiciary are critical partners of the military in the effort to undermine the AKP. The confluence of interests among these groups produced the present case before the Constitutional Court that seeks to close the party and ban 70 of its members from politics for five years.

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