First Take: Turkey coup attempt has parallels to Egypt

Aykan Erdemir
15th July 2016 - Quoted by Oren Dorell - USA Today

The military coup attempt in Turkey, the country's fifth since 1960, is reminiscent of a recent military takeover against the democratically elected president of Egypt.

The Turkish military group that seized the country's airports and television stations, calling itself the Peace at Home Council, said it acted to protect rule of law, democracy and the secular nature of the state. It accused Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan of treason.

Erdogan, vacationing in the Turkish coastal town of Izmir Friday, appealed in a FaceTime message calling on citizens to hit the streets and block the coup organizers.

The rationale behind the coup and the gunfire bring to mind the violent 2013 coup in Egypt that deposed President Mohammed Morsi, who sought to consolidate power under his Freedom and Justice Party of the Muslim Brotherhood, a radical Islamist group.

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“I see a parallel,” said Aykan Erdemir, a Turkey analyst at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.

Like Morsi in Egypt, Erdogan has been seen by many in Turkey as seeking to consolidate the country under the Islamist AKP party, which he leads, and convert a traditionally secular nation into a more devout religious state that adheres to Islamic customs.

In trying to increase his presidential powers, Erdogan has cracked down on press freedoms, political opponents, any criticism of him and Kurdish separatists.

The coup organizers “call for rule of law, equal treatment of everyone regardless of ethnicity or sect,” Erdemir said. “A lot of people started believing Erdogan was using democratic means to undo democracy. The creation of one man rule.”

In May, Erdogan’s government closed down the nation’s largest newspaper, Today’s Zaman, with a circulation 650,000. The Turkish prosecutor accused the paper’s owners of acting for a political rival accused of terrorism and attempting a coup. Numerous journalists have been jailed under various charges, including supporting terrorism.

Erdogan's allies in parliament, which is controlled by his AKP party, passed a law allowing the president to redesign the country’s judicial system, which some in Turkey see as Erdogan's attempt to bring the high court “fully under his control,” Erdemir said.

The Turkish opposition challenged the law in the high court, but Erdogan began to redesign the court before it could rule.

Erdogan, who served two terms as prime minister before being elected to the once-ceremonial role of president, also has been pushing for a constitutional amendment to create a more centralized executive system with a strong presidency.

“These could be the developments that the clique (behind the coup) is referring to or using as pretext for the coup,” Erdemir said.

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akp, coup-attempt, erdogan, extremists, morsi, turkey