A neighbor’s crisis

The annulment of Turkey’s parliamentary elections for a new president by the constitutional court on Tuesday, without any legal reasoning, effectively amounted to a coup by the security establishment. The secular military hopes that by using blackmail, polarization and violent provocation, it can build a broad anti-Islamic front. The aim is to win an early election by rallying the various opposition parties behind Deniz Baykal. If this fails, the constitutional coup may well turn into a military one. Of course, Turkey is no stranger to coups but this time the tanks will have to make their way through a political minefield. Greece’s modern nation state has been based on a mature civil society under the leadership of a cosmopolitan bourgeois class. Turkey however did not follow the western but rather the third-world state model of nation-building. The father of the nation was the army, whose political interventions enjoyed a minimum degree of public legitimacy. That is history. A new coup against a democratically elected government that respected the constitutional rules of the game and pushed Turkey’s EU bid will strip the military of the very last vestige of legitimacy. Algeria’s experience may provide a valuable lesson. In 1991, the military bureaucracy of the FLN was forced to organize comparatively free elections. The triumph of the Islamic FSI in the first round triggered a military intervention in defence of the secular republic (with western tolerance). As a result, the moderate FSI was hijacked by the fundamentalists of the GIA, plunging Algeria into a decade-long civil war that claimed 160,000 lives and led to a wave of terror attacks in France. The Turkish crisis may have repercussions not only for our eastern neighbors but for the broader region too.