Coup attempt in Turkey fails

Coup attempt in Turkey fails
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said he would take the opportunity for a "cleansing" of the military.
By bne IntelliNews July 16, 2016

The attempted coup overnight in Turkey has failed and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan looks poised to use this to complete his purge of the country's key institutions and push through his drive for an executive presidency. 

By Saturday morning the situation was quiet in Istanbul and soldiers involved in the coup attempt were surrendering, including soldiers holding the bridge over the Bosphorus. Prime Minister Binali Yildirim said the situation is largely under control.

According to news reports more than 200 people were killed in the coup and some 1,500 were injured. Some 3,000 military personnel involved in the plot have been arrrested and five generals have been removed from their posts. One rebel general was killed in the coup.

Supporters of the government came out onto the streets overnight to confront the coup plotters. In some cities, reportedly troops tried to leave their barracks to join the coup, but police and civilians prevented them from leaving the military complexes.

Anti-government groups did not come out to the streets to support the coup. All opposition parties in parliament stood against the coup attempt.

Earlier soldiers had been deployed at strategic points in Ankara and Istanbul and the main TV station was briefly seized. The parliament complex and Erdogan’s palace in Ankara were bombed overnight, but no deputies were hurt.

Jets belonging to the coup-plotters flew low in the capital and Istanbul over the night. Government supporting jets attacked rebel positions, one shooting down a helicopter in Ankara used by coup-plotters.

There was reportedly an attempted assassination attempt on Erdogan in the Turkish resort town of Marmaris on the Aegean coast but the country's leader had already left for Istanbul when rebel helicopters attacked his hotel. 

“After we had departed they attacked the place, probably thinking that we were still there,” Erdogan told media at Istanbul airport on Friday night.

According to local media, clashes between the plotters and police forces loyal to Erdogan continued overnight around the hotel, leaving two policemen dead and others wounded. CNN reported that 1.5 hours after the president left a helicopter used by the coup plotters had dropped 10-15 soldiers with heavy guns near Erdogan’s hotel. When police teams from the special forces arrived at the scene clashes broke out with the plotters. 

Erdogan called on his supporters to take to the streets against the coup-plotters. He denounced the coup attempt, which he blames on his foe, the US-based cleric Fetullah Gulen, as “treason”, and he said those responsible will pay a “heavy price”. He said the coup is an opportunity for the “cleansing” of the military. He also once again demanded the US extradite Gulen. 

In an emailed statement Gulen denied responsibility: “As someone who suffered under multiple military coups during the past five decades, it is especially insulting to be accused of having any link to such an attempt,” the cleric said.

US President Obama condemned the coup: “All parties in Turkey should support the democratically-elected government of Turkey, show restraint, and avoid any violence or bloodshed.”

It is not known how many soldiers, officers, high-ranking commanders took part in the coup attempt.  The military chief of staff, who was seized by the plotters, was later freed. 

Turkey's parliament building was hit by one, maybe two bombs in the course of the night

The aftermath

Erdogan is likely to emerge even stronger from what now seems to be a failed coup attempt. The events of July 15 proved that he enjoys huge public support and can mobilise this.

In the history of Turkey - which witnessed military interventions in 1960, 1971 and 1980 – people never took to the streets against the military to stop the coups. There are pictures showing people attacking coup-plotters. This is also unprecedented for a nation which treats the army like a “sacred” institution.

The coup attempt will weaken the military and will destroy its reputation as the country’s most trusted institution. The coup attempt will demoralise the army and may weaken it in its fight against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and Islamic State.

The events also reveal that Erdogan fully enjoys the support of the 200,000+ strong police force. This is also significant, showing that Erdogan has built an army of his own.

There are no reports suggesting that the pro-government faction of the military confronted the coup-plotters on the streets but confrontations are reported at some garrisons. The police mainly clashed with the coup-plotters and tried to suppress the uprising. The police and government supporters sometimes acted together to confront the coup plotters around the government buildings, Istanbul’s airport, and TV channels that the pro-coup factions briefly seized during the night. There is footage showing government supporters hugging and taking selfies with members of the security forces. 

The government will now purge hundreds of government officials, including judges, prosecutors and soldiers, increasing pressure on all sort of opponents. 2,745 judges were already reported to have been dismissed.

The coup attempt will provide Erdogan with the opportunity to make a strong case for an executive presidential system.

The coup attempt will dent investor sentiment at least until the government fully re-establishes law and order. Stocks and the currency moves will show how investors take this unprecedented event when markets open on Monday. The July 15 events make Turkey look like a very unstable country.

Because of a demoralised army Turkey may become an easier target for Islamic State. More bombs and attacks in Turkey’s major cities by jihadists and militant Kurdish groups that want to take advantage of the situation will deal a further blow to the country’s struggling tourism industry which provides much-needed hard currency used to plug Turkey’s current account deficit.

If political uncertainties and turmoil continue, consumer and business confidence will take a hit, economic activities will slow down, economic growth will suffer. Investors will wait to see what kind of country Erdogan wants to create out of this failed coup.