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«İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute, Dolapdere Campus, Kurtulufl Deresi Cad. Yahya Köprüsü Sk. No: 1 34440 Dolapdere / ‹stanbul, ...»

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Yaprak Gürsoy


Working Paper No: 5 EU/5/2012

İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute, Dolapdere Campus,

Kurtulufl Deresi Cad. Yahya Köprüsü Sk. No: 1

34440 Dolapdere / ‹stanbul, Turkey Phone: +90 212 311 52 40 • Fax: +90 212 250 87 48 e-mail: europe@bilgi.edu.tr • http://eu.bilgi.edu.tr





This Working Paper is part of a project entitled “Armed Forces and Society in Turkey: An Em- pirical Approach” (project number 110K462) funded by The Scientific and Technological Re- search Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) under the Support Programme for Scientific and Techno- logical Research Projects (1001). The project is carried out under the leadership of Asst. Prof.

Dr. Zeki Sarıgil from Bilkent University, in collaboration with Asst. Prof. Dr. Yaprak Gürsoy from Istanbul Bilgi University. The project, which began in April 2011, is expected to conclude in June 2012.

Description of the Project “Armed Forces and Society in Turkey: An Empirical Approach” Since the 1990s, many opinion surveys have demonstrated that the Turkish Armed Forces (TAF) are the most trusted institution among the Turkish public. In the academic literature as well it is a commonly shared view that Turkish society trusts and values its military. Despite this widely shared argument, there is still limited empirical knowledge of the factors and dynamics behind the relations between the military and society in Turkey. The project aims to fill this gap in the literature by conducting a public opinion survey that focuses only on military-society relations in Turkey and carrying out in-depth interviews that analyze the perceptions of the elite toward the military.

More specifically, the project intends to find answers to the following questions: How much does Turkish society trust the military? What are the perceptions of society on military in- terventions in politics? What do the public and elite expect from the TAF? What are the percep- tions of the public and elite toward conscription? What is the dominant view in Turkish society on the question of transition to a professional military? What do people think about the recent developments in civil-military relations in Turkey? Several factors which might shape the an- swers to such questions are investigated in the project. These factors include income and educa- tion level, religion, religiosity, secularism, religious sect, ethnicity, ideology, political party sup- port, military service, martyrdom, urban/rural division, region etc.

Apart from its contributions to the academic literature,the project also has significant widespread effects. Since Turkey is located in an important geopolitical region, a study that focuses on the various aspects of relations between the TAF and society is expected to produce results that enhance our understanding of political stability and, consequently, national security.

The project provides important insights on democratic consolidation in Turkey by developing inferences on the possibilities of creating more democratic civil-military relations in Turkey on the road to European Union membership.

4 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy Information on the Author Yaprak Gürsoy received her PhD from the University of Virginia, Department of Politics. Her dissertation is a comparative study of Greek and Turkish political regimes, civil-military relations, and businessmen’s political attitudes. For her dissertation, Dr. Gürsoy conducted more than 100 interviews with Greek and Turkish military officers, politicians, and businessmen. Her research in Greece was funded by the State Scholarship Foundation of Greece. Currently, Dr.

Gürsoy is an Assistant Professor in the Department of International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University, teaching subjects such as Civil-Military Relations, Comparative Politics, Political Transformation in Europe, and the European Union. She has participated in a project on international influences on democratization headed by the CDDRL at Stanford University and an EU FP6 project on Reconstituting Democracy in Europe. Her articles have appeared in Democratization, South European Society and Politics, Turkish Studies, Journal of Political and Military Sociology, Journal of Modern Greek Studies, and East European Quarterly.

5 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy

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Abstract: A quick glance at the Eurobarometer surveys indicate that after 2008 there is drop in the number of respondents who declared their trust in the Turkish Armed Forces. Indeed, in the 2010 survey, the Turkish public does not seem to differ from its European counterparts and trusts the military at around the same level as western democracies. The critical event that seems to have led to the drop in trust levels is the court case known as Ergenekon, which has implicated hundreds of lower- and higher-ranking current and retired officers in attempts to stage coups against the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Given the importance of civil-military relations and the public’s attitudes toward the armed forces for democratic consolidation, is it possible to argue, then, that the Ergenekon case is contributing to democratization in Turkey?

In order to answer this question the paper analyzes Turkish public opinion on the trials, based on an original nation-wide opinion survey designed to understand attitudes toward the military.

The results of the survey show that Turkish politics is polarized on the Ergenekon case. This type of polarization is indicative of an unconsolidated democracy where actors mutually suspect each other’s intentions. Thus, instead of contributing to consolidation by altering the public’s attitudes toward the armed forces, the Ergenekon case is leading to polarization and threatening the prospects of further democratization.

6 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy Introduction Turkish politics has been going through an important transformation since 2007, due to the start of an investigation known to the public as Ergenekon.1 The inquisition can be traced back to March 2007 when the alleged diaries of a former commander of the navy published by a weekly magazine exposed coup plans against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government in 2003-2004. In the subsequent years, other plots were revealed, such as the “Action Plan to Combat Islamic Fundamentalism”, “Cage” and “Sledgehammer”.2 Since the start of the official investigation in June 2007, more than 300 people, including journalists, academics and retired and active-duty military officers from various ranks have been implicated in the coup plans and have been put on trial. Up until 2011, 18 operations were conducted, 318 individuals were formally charged and 15 indictments were prepared.3 The accused individuals are said to have established a terrorist organization called Ergenekon with the purpose of inciting chaos and opposition against the ruling AKP. The charges have included attacks against religious minority groups, planting explosives in mosques, assassinating prominent individuals or bombing a newspaper with the purpose of creating the right circumstances for the military to stage a coup and intervene against the government.

I ask in this paper what the effect of this unparalleled court case in Turkish history is on Turkish democratic consolidation. The investigation and the trials are unprecedented because high ranking officers, including a former deputy chief of the General Staff and commanders of the armed forces, are put on trial for the first time for allegedly plotting coups to topple an elected civilian government. In a country that has witnessed two direct military coups (1960, 1980) and two indirect interventions (1971, 1997), these developments are expected to have an impact on democratic consolidation. I attempt to analyze such an impact by using the dataset on the Survey on the Armed Forces and Society in Turkey (SAFST) conducted in October 2011 by faceto-face interviews with 2775 people.4 The quantitative analysis based on SAFST data indicates that the Ergenekon case has two contradictory effects on Turkish democracy. First, the investigation makes a positive contribution to democracy by decreasing the level of trust in the military, which can lead to de-legitimization of the military’s interventions in politics and its tutelage. Yet, the second effect of the investigation on democracy is negative, since the survey results indicate that Ergenekon leads to polarization among political groups, which is not conducive to consolidation.

In order to make these arguments, in the first section of the paper I examine the connection between positive popular attitudes toward the Turkish military and the political powers and prerogatives of the armed forces. Previous research on Turkey and theories of democratization Even though the investigation and the trials of Ergenekon are two different issues, for reasons of simplicity I use 1 the terms “investigation,” “inquisition,” “operation,” “case” and “trial” interchangeably when referring to Ergenekon.

The Sledgehammer investigation started as a separate inquisition in January 2010 and hundreds of officers have 2 been accused and put on trial since July 2010. Arguably the Sledgehammer plot also had a significant impact on public views regarding the Turkish armed forces, but because there was no specific question on the SAFST on Sledgehammer, this article focuses only on the consequences of the Ergenekon case.

“318 Sanık Hakkında 15 İddianame Hazırlandı.” Hürriyet, 5 March 2011, p.25.

3 The survey is part of a project entitled “Armed Forces and Society in Turkey: an Empirical Approach” funded 4 by The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey (TÜBİTAK) under the Support Programme for Scientific and Technological Research Projects (1001) (Project Number 110K462). The survey was conducted by KONDA Research and Consultancy Company under the supervision of the director of the project Asst. Prof.

Dr. Zeki Sarıgil from Bilkent University and Asst. Prof. Dr. Yaprak Gürsoy from Istanbul Bilgi University.

7 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy indicate that high levels of public trust in the military have negative consequences for democratic consolidation. In the second part of the paper, I look into the impact of polarization on democratic consolidation and discuss the recent increase in polarization among the political parties as a result of the Ergenekon case. In the third part of the paper, I test the hypotheses derived from these theoretical discussions by using the SAFST data. The conclusions from the empirical analysis indicate that, overall, the Ergenekon investigation is not contributing to (and perhaps even damaging) the consolidation of democracy in Turkey.

Democratic Consolidation and Trust in the Military According to both general theoretical assessments of democratization and research related to Turkey, there is an association between the level of trust the public has toward the military and democratic consolidation. In terms of theoretical considerations, the definitions of a liberal democracy and democratic consolidation highlight the importance of the political powers of the military and its popularity in society. In order to consider a country fully democratic, the armed forces and other unelected institutions should not have powers and prerogatives that would challenge and restrict the decision-making capabilities of elected officials, such as the government and parliament. 5 If the military has tutelary powers and policy domains in which it makes decisions on its own, it is not possible to refer to that country as a liberal democracy.

Although related to the procedures of liberal democracy, the concept of consolidation is different and refers to the cultural dimension of democratization.6 For democratic consolidation, all significant actors and, in countries where the military historically had political powers and prerogatives, also the armed forces should attitudinally and behaviorally endorse democracy.7 If a group of actors with potentially significant force to disturb the political system does not consider democracy the best regime suitable for the country, then democracy is not consolidated. 8 While on the one hand, such beliefs among the personnel of the armed forces could be threatening to democracy (especially if these officers have the necessary resources to stage a coup d’état), on the other hand, the existence of civilian groups in society that lend support to regimes other For definitions of democracy, see Robert A. Dahl, Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition (New Haven: Yale 5 University Press, 1972), p.3; Juan Linz, “Totalitarian and Authoritarian Regimes,” in Handbook of Political Science, v. 3: Macropolitical Theory, eds. Fred I. Greenstein and Nelson W. Polsby (Reading: Addison-Wesley Publishers, 1975), pp.182-3; Juan J. Linz, Alfred Stepan and Richard Gunther, “Democratic Transition and Consolidation in Southern Europe, with Reflections on Latin America and Eastern Europe,” in The Politics of Democratic Consolidation: Southern Europe in Comparative Perspective, eds. Richard Gunther, Nikiforos P.Diamandouros and Hans-Jürgen Puhle (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1995), p.78; Phillipe C.

Schmitter and Terry Lynn Karl, “What Democracy Is…and Is Not,” Journal of Democracy vol. 2, no. 3 (1991), pp.76-82; On the conceptualization of civilian control of the military and its significance for democracy, see Aurel Croissant, et al., “Beyond the Fallacy of Coup-ism: Conceptualizing Civilian Control of the Military in Emerging Democracies,” Democratization vol. 17, no. 5 (2010), pp.950-75.

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