BY: KATHERINE GAN, SENIOR CONTRIBUTOR
Last Friday, on July 15th, members of the Turkish military stormed onto the streets of Ankara and Istanbul, in a coup to overthrow President Erdogan and his oppressive government. President Erdogan has been criticized for aggressively shutting down his opposition, evident by Turkey’s state control of media, dismissal of corruption allegations against governmental officials and their families, and forcefully repressing peaceful protests. In addition, economic growth has stalled in Turkey, as the Turkish lira dropped by 70 percent against the US dollar since 2013. Coupled with the loss of civil liberties and freedoms, the lack of economic stability allowed conditions to flourish that fostered resistance and eventually an attempted coup. However, due to a lack of support within the military and populace, the coup was easily dismantled within hours. As the coup was drawn out overnight, over 250 individuals were killed and approximately 1,400 were injured. Moreover, as it became increasingly evident that the coup was a failure, President Erdogan began to consolidate power and further crackdown on suspected coup participants as well as civilians. This purge has affected over 50,000 people, including the detaining of 7,500 soldiers and suspension of 3,000 judicial members. The president has also made a call for a return to the death penalty in order to punish those who organized the coup. Most recently, he instated a three-month state of emergency, which would further suspend freedoms and enhance executive power by reducing parliament’s ability to create laws. These actions, just days following the coup, are foreshadowing greater dangers to the livelihood of Turkey’s democracy.
Ironically, in an effort to “protect democracy”, President Erdogan seems to have stifled its progress. He has systematically removed opposing government members, particularly those linked to Fethullah Gulen, Erdogan’s rival, who is blamed for launching the coup. Additionally, the event may have been detrimental to democracy itself. Contrary to popular belief, research has shown that following coups, authoritarian regimes emerge along with higher levels of state-sanctioned violence. This is clearly supported by President Erdogan’s numerous efforts to fortify his rule. It is also important to recognize that the failed coup has implications for not only Turkey but also countries around the world.
The United States, among other countries, has recognized that Turkey is a vital ally in fighting ISIS. Unfortunately, the recent coup dampens Turkey’s ability to thwart the terrorist organization. Many of the military officers and police force that had been leading and training soldiers were detained by the government. Replacing these vital leaders could take three to five years; during this time, ISIS could expand in the Middle East and beyond. In addition, even if many of the top military officials were reinstated, fear of retaliation would prevent them from taking preemptive action and making efforts to oust ISIS from the region. Furthermore, Turkey’s failed coup may further strengthen Bashar al-Assad’s brutal regime in Syria. Historically, President Erdogan has financed and supported the Syrian opposition, but the coup has weakened Erdogan’s power and forces him to look inward instead of outward. He may have to fight off internal enemies before focusing on others outside the country, resulting in diminished support of the Free Syrian Army. From another perspective, the failed coup could be both beneficial and harmful for Syrian refugees. Some argue that the failed coup was relief for Syrian refugees residing in Turkey. This is because despite President Erdogan’s policies regarding refugees, he has still given approximately three million Syrians basic sanctuary, which is far more preferable to his political opponents’ policies. Others worry that the migration crisis will only exacerbate, as Erdogan’s recent crackdown on civil liberties following the coup could dissolute a pact forged between the EU and Turkey regarding refugees. Originally, EU countries offered Turkey around three billion dollars in aid to take in more refugees that were not in need of imminent protection by Greece and other countries; however, this was contingent on better governance by President Erdogan, particularly in protecting civil rights. By strengthening his authority and restraining any opposition, he may be violating the tenets of the agreement, preventing it from being followed. Moreover, others have also argued that President Erdogan’s securing of power following the coup may cause more individuals to seek refuge in European countries, only perpetuating the current crisis. Aside from foreign policy implications, the failed Turkish coup may shape the future of the nation’s economy.
Experts have been divided over the short term and long term economic consequences of a failed coup in Turkey. Some experts note than foreign investors could be reluctant to invest in the country due to fears of political instability. This follows a tumultuous few months in which Turkey’s tourism sector saw the biggest drop in 17 years due to volatility with Russia and security concerns over numerous bombings. On the other hand, other economists believe that in the long term, over a span of around 10 years, failed coups have had little to no effect on economic growth.
While the failed Turkey coup may only seem to reinforce President Erdogan’s oppressive regime, it has repercussions for the peace and solvency of crises both in and out of the country.
Photo Credits: By Maurice Flesier (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)], via Wikimedia Commons