Editorial: a moment of truth for Erdoğan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wipes his tears during the funeral of Mustafa Cambaz, Erol and Abdullah Olcak, killed Friday while protesting the attempted coup against Turkey's government.


These days, we mainly hear of military coups in African and South-Asian nations only. Therefore, the clips of shooting in central Ankara and Istanbul with tanks on streets and choppers and fighters above come across as shocking. Seeing this is a NATO member and a vital partner for the EU.  

In Turkey, the military have undertaken coups before. The last time was in 1997, in a manner relatively «mild». Namely, the army simply asked the Islamist prime minister Necmettin Erbakan to leave.

While this try failed, there are reasons to worry about the deep splits in Turkish society, as well as in the military.

In Turkish society, the military plays a role different from the West. In a way, it is a guaranty of societal stability and secularity. For a decade, there has been a confrontation between the military and Mr Erdoğan, during which the former prime minister now president had attempted to set his loyalists on key positions accompanied by repressions and lay-off at top of the army.

A controversial leader, Mr Erdoğan has been bent on growing the role of Islam in a secular Turkey, aimed at consolidating the society. Meanwhile, the traditional problems like the rampant corruption and economic equality have not been helped. Rather, this has led Mr Erdoğan into a conflict with Turkish intelligentsia and other secular forces. Doubtless, the opponents of Mr Erdoğan do dislike his authoritarian style of governance and negative characteristics like stubbornness and at times unrestricted self admiration.

To add fuel to the fire, Mr Erdoğan’s rule comes with its misses in policy both foreign and domestic. He has managed to quarrel with many a former ally; recently, relations with European partners are not the warmest. Many are dissatisfied with Mr Erdoğan’s lack of decisiveness in the issues of Syria and the Kurds.

Still, it is important that the instability, great as it is in the region, spread no further and that the conflict in Turkey escalate no further. In a way, this is the moment of truth for Mr Erdoğan. With him, an increasing striving towards greater authoritarianism has been spotted and there is no doubt that the failed coup grants him the opportunity to increasingly tighten the screws in Turkey and lead it to the path of islamisation.