The Turkish government has detained more than 6,000 people, including soldiers, military officers, generals, judges and prosecutors, after the failed coup at the weekend. The government says US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen is behind the coup attempt and it has demanded his extradition from the US where he has been living in self-imposed exile since 1999. Around 265 people dead and more than 1,400 were wounded in the coup attemp.
However, the speed and extent of the roundup indicated that the government had prepared a list beforehand, said EU commissioner for enlargement Johannes Hahn. "It looks at least as if something has been prepared. The lists are available, which indicates it was prepared and to be used at a certain stage," Hahn said. "I'm very concerned. It is exactly what we feared."
Meanwhile US Secretary of State John Kerry has reiterated that the US will only extradite Gulen when it receives proper evidence.
A coup unfolds
On Friday night (July 15) at around 10pm local media outlets and social media users started to report unusual military activity in and around the capital Ankara and Istanbul, the country’s commercial centre and its largest city. The coup plotters deployed troops and tanks at strategic locations, including the bridges over the Bosphorus, while F-16 jets were flying low in Ankara and Istanbul, causing panic among the public. People rushed to the markets, buying food and withdrawing money from ATMs.
At 11pm Prime Minister Binali Yildirim confirmed that a coup attempt was underway. At that point the whereabouts of President Erdogan was not known. The plotters took the chief of staff Hulusi Akar and other top brass hostage and held them in secret locations. The coup plotters, who called themselves “the Peace Council”, seized state-run broadcaster TRT and aired a message, saying they had seized power and a curfew was in place.
Hours later Erdogan emerged from the resort town of Marmaris on the Aegean coast, using FaceTime to call his supporters onto the streets to oppose the coup attempt. This was the decisive moment. Immediately after the president’s message, thousands of Erdogan supporters took to the streets across the country in support of the government. There were reports suggesting that people together with the police forces were preventing the troops from leaving their barracks to join the coup attempt.
Erdogan flew from Marmaris into Istanbul before dawn on Saturday, speaking to a crowd of supporters outside Ataturk Airport, which had previously been briefly seized by the plotters. In Istanbul, Erdogan told reporters that a group of soldiers attacked his hotel in Marmaris after he had left the hotel in apparent attempt to capture or assassinate him.
At around 1am Saturday, helicopters used by the coup plotters launched an attack on the parliament building. The attack damaged parts of the parliament complex but no lawmakers were injured. Fighter jets loyal to the government reportedly shot down a helicopter belonging to the plotters over Ankara. The plotters also reportedly bombed Erdogan’s palace in Ankara.
In the early hours of Saturday, the attempted coup plot appeared to crumble as it failed to secure the support of the public and the majority of the military. Some of the soldiers that took part in the coup started to surrender. The country’s 200,000+ strong police force remained loyal to Erdogan, playing a crucial role in averting the coup.
At the time of writing, situation is under control in Turkey. More than 6,000 people including soldiers, military officers, generals, judges and prosecutors who the government says took part in the coup attempt or are believed to be sympathisers of Gulen have been detained. The crackdown on the Gulenists is expected to continue.
All political parties in parliament condemned and stood firmly against the coup attempt, including the staunchly secular, anti-Erdogan main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and pro-Kurdish HDP.
Most analysts believe the coup attempt has provided Erdogan with a golden opportunity to purge the military and judiciary and to make a strong case for an executive presidential system. Local media point to General Akin Ozturk, the former commander of the Turkish Air Force, as the mastermind of the failed coup attempt. He has been arrested along with a number of high ranking commanders.
The coup attempt has exposed the deep divisions within the military, the second largest in Nato. It will demoralise the army and may weaken it in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Islamic State.
One of the successes of Erdogan in the past was to reduce the powers of the military that staged four coups in 1960, 1971, 1980 and 1997. Erdogan now says the death penalty could be reintroduced for the coup plotters. But such a move will not be well received by the EU which already has troubled relations with Ankara.
The failed coup attempt will dent investor sentiment. Market reaction will be seen after the stock exchange reopens on Monday. The government has already moved to calm investors with the central bank promising more liquidity. Deputy premier Mehmet Simsek held a conference call with more than 500 global investors on July 17. He also held meetings with the heads of the central bank and the Treasury. “There is no need to worry,” he said on Twitter.
The central bank announced on July 17 that it will provide banks with liquidity without limits. All measures will be taken to ensure financial stability, if deemed necessary, it assured.
A campaign, under the hashtag of #TLyeSahipÇık, has been launched on social media to support the economy and lira. The local currency plunged against the dollar after the news on the coup attempt, trading at 3.0157, according to Bloomberg data.
“The main question for investors now is whether or not there will be a residual impact on Turkey’s long-term risk premium,” Commerzbank said in a note on July 17. This would be the case if the incident is telling us that resistance to President Erdogan and the AKP is so severe that it will keep surfacing frequently, it added.
“We think that the incident will increase uncertainty in the business sector as it has just demonstrated what the range of tail risks in Turkey could be. This is likely to depress investment sentiment,” according to the analysts at the bank.