Turkey’s President Erdogan has marked the one year anniversary of a failed coup against his leadership.
Marking an attempted coup against one’s own government might be considered something of a bold or even risky public statement. While there is still no international consensus on who orchestrated the coup, the mid-level Turkish Army personnel who on the 15th of June, 2016, attempted to overthrow Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan almost certainly aimed to assassinate the Turkish President.
Indeed, Erdgoan’s life was ultimately saved when Russia tipped him off about their intelligence regarding the coup, causing Erdogan to flee to safety where he rallied his supporters via the Facetime app.
Erdogan continues to claim that the coup was organised by supporters of the exiled cleric and rival political Islamist Fethullah Gulen. Erdogan also blames the United States for continuing to offer Gulen asylum and refusing to hand him to Turkish authorities where he is wanted on terrorism charges.
Erdogan’s public ‘victory’ celebration over the coup can be contrasted with an event which took place in Moscow in 1969. During a parade honouring cosmonauts, Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev’s motorcade was shot at by a lone deranged gunman. The would-be assassin murdered a driver in the motorcade but ultimately failed to seriously hurt anyone else.
Although his crime would have been eligible for the death penalty, he was deemed insane and sentenced to solitary confinement.
The event was hardly talked about at the time and it remains a matter that is hardly ever discussed either in modern Russia or elsewhere.
In marking one’s survival after an attempted coup and/or assassination, there is always a risk one runs of encouraging copy-cats to attempt such things again.
It seems that the Turkish President has no such worries as he marked the event with a massive rally in Istanbul, the place were last week opposition leaders concluded a long march with a rally for justice against victims of the purges Erdogan has enacted against public officials in the year following the attempted coup.
Erdogan joined the rally at Istanbul University, ironically a place which has experienced purges of professorial staff in the aftermath of the failed coup. Days prior to the rally, a further 7,400 Turkish civil servants were purged, bringing the aggregate total of public officials purged since the failed coup to 150,000.
Erdogan’s entry was staged to look both messianic and grassroots. Although surely there were security officials surrounding him at all times, Erdogan was filmed surrounded by adoring admirers, women and children in a bold statement implying that he has no fear of walking in public without a uniformed brigade of security officials.
Erdogan then marched with his supporters to Bosporus Bridge where in 2016, coup supporters faced off with the supporters Erdogan rallied in his live online video.
Erdogan spoke at the rally saying,
“My dear citizens, I want to salute you with honour, love and heartfelt feelings. Like the day of the coup, our nation stood up with their faith against violence.
Did our citizens have guns in their hands? Just like today, they only had flags in their hands. But they had an even stronger weapon. Their faith”.
Erdogan’s bold and defiant statements on the anniversary of the failed coup have been matched by political changes to Turkey. On the 16th of April this year, Erdogan won a controversial referendum which changed Turkey’s Constitution, allowing for the Presidency to be a supremely powerful office.
Erdogan can now issue countless Presidential degrees without oversight, can appoint and dismiss officials at will and is not answerable to the Turkish Parliament whose powers have been generally reduced to that of a mere debating chamber.
Tuekey’s secular Kemalist opposition party, CHP have called for the results of the referendum to be nullified given multiple voter irregularities.
Some call Erdogan’s coup anniversary rally an act of hubris, others call it an act of defiance, others yet continue to believe that the failed coup was entirely staged by Erdogan to enhance his own power, although the fact that Russian intelligence warned Erdogan of the coup when they got word of it would indicate that the event was a genuine rising against Erdogan.
While Erdogan’s power has been strengthened in the year since the coup and much of his opposition as well as apolitical civil servants imprisoned, fired or victims of suicide as a result of being jobless, there is still a great deal of opposition to Erdogan in the country in many levels.
Erodgan’s opposition who recently rallied as much as a million people to protest the purges seem to becoming emboldened. At the same time, Erdogan’s intervention into Syria has emboldened the Kurdish PKK to become more strident on the home front.
All of this is happening while the threat of both Gulenists and Salafist terrorists including forces loyal to ISIS and al-Qaeda are spilling into Turkey as the conflict in Syria draws gradually to a close.
Erdogan is victorious for the time being and he has removed many of his opponents, but the ideas behind his manifold opposition remain as strong as they were at this time last year, perhaps even stronger.