Recep Tayyip Erdogan has ruled Turkey for more than a decade. He should be enjoying his time of triumph.
Yet his country almost crashed and burned last week. Elements of the army and air force attempted a coup d’etat, leading to street battles and air attacks.
Erdogan promised revenge against those involved, who will “pay a heavy price for their treason.” No doubt they will, since the thin-skinned Erdogan long has been making even mild critics suffer for their alleged sins. To tame the military, his government previously tried hundreds of military officers and others in mass trials involving improbably fantastic conspiracies.
Turkey is one of the least friendly nations for independent journalists. Around 2000 people, including students and even a beauty queen, have been prosecuted for criticizing Erdogan. His government periodically targets Internet freedom.
The briefly constituted junta announced that it had seized power “to reinstall the constitutional order, democracy, human rights and freedoms, to ensure that the rule of law once again reigns in the country, for last and order to be reinstated.” Worthy objectives for an increasingly desperate Turkey today.
Unfortunately, a coup may be the least likely vehicle for moving Turkey into a genuine liberal, democratic future. Those who look back nostalgically on earlier military seizures of power ignore the ugly reality. For instance, the 1960 coup led to the execution of the popularly elected prime minister and other officials and imprisonment of thousands.