Military’s upper hand in politics?

The Supreme Military Council (YAi) began its three-day-long annual meeting on Aug. 3 to decide on the promotions and retirements of generals. YAi is one of the leftovers of the military tutelage system that has not seen any changes to its founding law to bring it up it to democratic standards. Prime ministers chair the YAi meetings staffed by generals. In addition to the prime minister, defense ministers are the only civilians represented within YAi. In 2010, with the start of both the Balyoz (Sledgehammer) and Ergenekon coup plot trials in which about 400 retired and active duty officers including generals were tried on charges of attempting to unseat the government at the time, YAi was the scene of a deep rift between the civilian authority and the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK). In 2011 it witnessed the resignation of four commanders, including the then-chief of general staff, in protest of the arrest of more than 250 serving and retired officers charged with and later convicted of planning to overthrow the government. They were, however, acquitted last year after their retrial. Their retrial was possible when the Justice and Development Party (AKP) — the current caretaker government — and then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdogan pursued a policy of appeasement with the military, widely believed to cover up a high-profile corruption and bribery scandal that became public in December of 2013. Erdogan and his inner circle were also implicated in the graft probe that was prevented from proceeding.
The acquittal of all 236 suspects in the Balyoz coup plot case on the grounds of a lack of evidence to support the charges that suspects were engaged in activities to unseat the AKP government was a big turnaround.
Now at this yearand’s YAi, about 46 staff colonels who were acquitted after the retrial of Balyoz are seeking to be appointed as generals and admirals. In the meantime, one of the most important questions awaiting an answer is whether the TSK will bow to the pressures of President Erdogan in particular to carry out a purge within the military at this yearand’s YAi. Erdogan, along with his caretaker AKP government, has been pushing the TSK to initiate a purge of officers they claim to be members of the Hizmet movement. The movement, once an ally of the AKP and Erdogan, turned into the enemy when it was accused of orchestrating the 2013 corruption and bribery scandal to unseat their rule. There has not been any evidence produced so far to support Erdoganand’s claims against Hizmet though there is solid evidence of corruption activities. But the TSK appears to be resisting this pressure as it says there is no evidence to support claims that those officers are sympathizers of the Hizmet movement and that they have violated military protocol. However, according to retired Gen. ismail Hakki Pekin, who was among the officers who served prison sentences on charges of planning a coup to unseat the AKP government, it is highly likely that a purge will take place this year. Otherwise, he said in an interview with the Zaman daily on May 18, the government may declare Chief of General Staff Gen. Necdet andOzel a member of the Hizmet movement in an attempt to defame him ahead of his retirement this year. Since Erdoganand’s de facto alliance with the military after the corruption scandal, already fragile civil-military relations have taken a dangerous course, dragging the military back into politics. I think at this point we can say that at least some factions within the military and the governmentand’s interests continue to overlap and the more Erdogan seeks to prevent any legal proceedings on corruption charges from taking place, the weaker he becomes. Initially, it was about the military andquotsurvivingandquot in the post-trial (Balyoz) period and then Erdogan andquotsurvivingandquot in the post-corruption period. Now Erdoganand’s need to cover up the past is firmly giving the military the upper hand in politics.
The resumption of fighting against the Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) after a two-and-a-half-year-long peaceful climate, which also means a return to security-first policies, will undoubtedly also strengthen the militaryand’s position vis-andagrave-vis civilians.