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55 The party maintains that it upholds the rule of law and therefore chooses not to meddle with the process. 56 Implicit in the discourse of the AKP, however, there is also the belief that the suspects are guilty. Following the arrests of journalists under the Ergenekon investigation in 2011, for instance, the AKP leadership insisted that the reporters were held in prison because of their involvement in possible coup plots and terrorism.57 Since the beginning of the investigation and under the leadership of Baykal, the official line of the CHP had been critical of the case. The party had questioned the existence of an organization named Ergenekon and accused the AKP of controlling the inquisition and the legal process in order to eliminate its rivals. Under its new leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, since 2010 the CHP has continued to maintain the same position.
The debate over Ergenekon intensified prior to the June 2011 elections due to a new wave of journalist imprisonments in February and March.58 After the arrests, Kılıçdaroğlu argued that Soner Çağaptay, “Behind Turkey’s Witch Hunt,” Newsweek, 16 May 2009 http://www.newsweek.
52 com/2009/05/15/behind-turkey-s-witch-hunt.html (accessed 05 June 2011) and “What’s Really behind Turkey’s Coup Arrests?,”Foreign Policy vol. 25 (2010).
Amberin Zaman, “Receding Power of Turkey’s Military: A Leap for Democracy or Another Power Struggle?’, 53 German Marshall Fund of the United States: Analysis, (2009), p.2.
“Baykal: Ergenekon Savcısı Başbakan’sa, Avukatı Benim,” Radikal, 5 July 2008, p.1, 7; “Erdoğan: Millet 54 Adına Savcıyım,” Milliyet, 16 July 2008, www.milliyet.com.tr.
“‘Nerede Bu Örgüt Üye Olacağım’ Sözü Yargıya Müdahale,” Hürriyet, 17 February 2011, p.22.
55 “Yargıya Başbakan Bile Telkinde Bulunmamalı,” Hürriyet, 17 February 2011, p.22; “Yargının Tasarrufu Bize 56 Çamur Atmayın,” Akşam, 5 March 2011, p.12.
“Gazeteci Kılıklı Kişiler İçin Ayağa Kalktılar,” Hürriyet, 14 March 2011, p.24; “Sistematik Karalama 57 Kampanyası,” Hürriyet, 15 March 2011, p.24.
For an overview of the positions parties had on civil-military relations during the 2011 election campaign see 58 19 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy the AKP was creating an “empire of terror,”59 repressing and censoring the press,60 and infringing upon the rule of law and establishing a system based on the “law of the rulers.”61 The party leadership also agreed with critics who questioned the existence of the Ergenekon terrorist organization. Kılıçdaroğlu even implied that he wanted to become a member of the organization, but did not know where to apply because he could not find its headquarters.62 The CHP showed its belief in the innocence of at least some of the accused by nominating four Ergenekon suspects in the 2011 general elections. When, after the elections, the court did not release from prison the members of the parliament who were also Ergenekon suspects, the CHP party group as a whole decided not to take the oath in the national parliament as a protest. 63 During the crisis Kılıçdaroğlu issued a “democracy manifesto” and blamed the AKP for the predicament and asked the government to release its control on the judiciary and the legislature.64 Even though the AKP and the CHP are involved in debates regarding Ergenekon, the other two parties in parliament, namely the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), are less inclined to comment on the investigation. Given its pro-Kurdish policies, the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) approaches all security organizations and the judiciary with suspicion. As a result, the party’s stance toward the case is mixed; on the one hand, it approves of the weakening of the political power of the armed forces, however, on the other hand, it argues that the AKP is using the investigation only to eliminate its opposition. 65 The party leaders suggest that the judiciary refrains from dealing with important issues, such as exposing the unsolved murders, tortures and abductions carried out by some officers in the Kurdish dominated regions.66 In general, the BDP believes that the investigation does not go deep enough and does not touch upon sensitive issues, such as revealing the political arm of the organization67 or come to terms with violations of Kurdish rights.
Since the start of the investigation the second opposition party, the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) also has criticized developments in Ergenekon, however the party has denounced the case from a different angle, less frequently and in a milder fashion than the CHP. The MHP is traditionally pro-military due to its nationalist ideology and it especially values the status, honor, and reputation of the armed forces. The MHP condemns the Ergenkon case mostly from this ideological position and regards it as an unfortunate incident that would jeopardize the prestige of the military. In July 2008, the leader of the party, Devlet Bahçeli, described Ergenekon as a “systematic slander campaign” executed both within the country and outside it. Bahçeli argued that the military should not be left alone against these accusations that could wear it down and Yaprak Gürsoy, “The Final Curtain for the Turkish Armed Forces? Civil-Military Relations in View of the 2011 General Elections,” Turkish Studies, forthcoming; for more information on the election campaigns of the parties, see Senem Aydın-Düzgit, “No Crisis, No Change: The Third AKP Victory in the June 2011 Parliamentary Elections in Turkey,” South European Society and Politics, DOI: 10.1080/13608746.2011.640426.
“Baskılar Halkı Patlatır,” Hürriyet, 15 Feburary 2011, p.24.
59 “Kılıçdaroğlu’ndan Savcılara: Hesap Vereceksiniz,” Radikal, 11 March 2011, www.radikal.com.tr.
60 “Üstünlerin Hukuku,” Hürriyet, 13 Feburary 2011, p.21.
61 “Nerede Bu Örgüt Üye Olayım,” Hürriyet, 16 February 2011, p.23.
62 “Balbay ve Haberal’a da Parlemento Yolu Kapalı,” Radikal, 24 June 2011; “Yemin Krizi Çözüldü,” Radikal, 63 11 July 2011.
“A Democracy Manifesto from the CHP Leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu,” dated 7 July 2011, available on the CHP 64 website at http://www.chp.org.tr/en/?manset=a-democracy-manifesto-from-chp-leader-kemal-kilicdaroglu (accessed July 30, 2011).
“DTP de Tepkili: Ergenekon AKP Karşıtlarına Yöneldi,” Radikal, 14 April 2009, www.radikal.com.tr.
65 “DTP: Savcı, Ergenekon Soruşturmasını Magazinselleştiriyor,” Radikal, 26 March 2009.
66 “BDP: Darbe Planlandıysa Siyasi Ayağı da Ortaya Çıkarılmalı,” Radikal, 02 March 2010.
67 20 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy affect its resolve to combat terrorism.68 Similarly, when commenting on another incident, Bahçeli asked the AKP not to mess with and tarnish the image of the military, while demanding a quick ruling so that those who had planned coups could be cleared out of the military and the institution could be freed from the controversies.69 According to the descriptive results of a survey conducted in 2010, public opinion is split in two regarding the Ergenekon case, which indicates that the attitudes of the people parallel the debates among the political parties. While 56.5 percent of the respondents believed that the government was fighting against gangs, 43.5 percent thought that the government was punishing its opponents. These results differed substantially among AKP and CHP supporters, suggesting the existence of polarization in public opinion. 87 percent of AKP voters held the former view, while 83 percent of the CHP voters agreed with the latter opinion. Among the BDP supporters, those who believed that the government was fighting against gangs was 52 percent.70 Such results from surveys support the argument that the discourse of the political parties with regards to the Ergenekon investigation and the debate in intellectual circles is contributing to polarization in Turkish politics. The nature of the cleavages in Turkey leads to the further hypotheses that among the AKP voters and pro-Islamists the likelihood of observing pro-Ergenekon attitudes is higher, and conversely, among CHP, MHP and BDP voters, secularists, Kurdish and Turkish nationalists the probability of discerning positive attitudes toward Ergenekon is lower.
Data and Dependent Variables This article has two main hypotheses with regards to the Ergenekon investigation: first, it is decreasing public confidence in the military; second, it is leading to polarization in society. In order to test these hypotheses, I use the Survey on Armed Forces and Society in Turkey (SAFST) data based on interviews conducted by close to 3000 individuals in October. The main purpose of the survey was to examine the attitudes of the Turkish public on the armed forces, and therefore, it asked several questions that could be used as dependent variables, such as trust in public institutions, attitudes toward military interventions in politics, and opinions on military professionalism and conscription. The survey also posed questions measuring economic, political, sociological, ideological, ethnic, religious and conjectural factors that could be utilized as independent variables.
The sample for the survey was determined by using the method of stratified multi-stage sampling design. In the first stage, primary sampling units (PSU) were decided by the population sizes and the demographic characteristics (education level and density) of districts based on the Address-Based Population Registration System data of the Turkish Statistical Institute (TURKSTAT). In the second stage, these PSUs were grouped into 12 different strata, in accordance with the geographical classifications used also by TURKSTAT. Finally 154 PSUs were randomly selected by a computer program and 18 individuals were surveyed per sampling unit. The survey has a 2% margin of error at a 95% confidence level.
The dependent variables to test the hypotheses are twofold. First, trust in the military is measured by the SAFST question that asked the respondents to agree, somewhat agree or disagree with the statement “I trust the military.” The second dependent variable, attitudes toward the Ergenekon case, is measured by the SAFST question asking the respondents to agree, somewhat agree or disagree with the statement “I believe that the Ergenekon terrorist organization exists.”
The descriptive statistics of the dependent variables are given in tables 2 and 3. The SAFST measured similar levels of trust in the Turkish military with the Eurobarometer results. While close to 67 percent of the respondents agreed with the statement “I trust the military,” 15 percent disagreed with the same statement. The controversies over Ergenekon are reflected in the public’s opinion toward the case. While close to half of the respondents (49 percent) agreed that the Ergenekon terrorist organization exists, a significant number disagreed and asserted that they believed that such an organization did not exist. At first glance, this result implies that some of the tensions identified above have affected and divided the general public’s opinion about Ergenekon.
Unlike some other studies, such as the World Values Survey (WVS), the SAFST questionnaire used a three-level Likert scale when measuring the dependent variables and some of the independent variables.71 The first draft of the survey questions, indeed, was based on a five level Likert scale, similar to the WVS. These questions were then tested in four neighborhoods in Istanbul and Ankara and in two neighborhoods in Diyarbakır, with the direct participation of the researchers of the project. The tests of the draft survey indicated that most of the respondents could not utilize the five-level scale and instead answered the questions in three levels, such as “yes,” “no” or “a little bit.” Taking this experience into consideration, it was decided that a three-level scale would be a better option. Respondents who did not provide answers or declared that they “did not know” were recorded as missing values. Respondents who declared that they “somewhat disagreed” or “neither agreed nor disagreed” were recorded as “somewhat agreed.” Thus, in the end, an ordinal categorical scale was used to measure the dependent variables, with the assumption that the categories can be ordered but the distances between them are not equal. One of the most appropriate methods to be used for this type of dependent variable is ordinal logistic regression, which was utilized in this paper.72 In each of the two models that were used to analyze trust in the military and attitudes toward the Ergenekon case, collinearity was checked and in both models the variance inflation factors (VIF) and the tolerance values indicated that collinearity was not a problem.
See Appendix for the questions from the survey that were used to operationalize the independent variables.
71 J. Scott Long, Regression Models for Categorical and Limited Dependent Variables (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 1997), pp.114-6; Scott Menard, Applied Logistic Regression Analysis (Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications, 2002).
22 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy Analysis and Findings Table 4 presents an overview of the demographic, political and ideological factors that have a statistical impact on trust in the military. The independent variables of the model were chosen based on the hypotheses derived from previous studies that have looked into the factors that influence confidence in the military. The following conclusions can be reached from the model.
(1) As expected, demographically, trust in the military decreases as education levels increase. There are also interesting findings with regards to income levels, since trust in the military decreases among affluent individuals, which is an outcome that was not observed in earlier analyses of trust in institutions. Moreover, contrary to previous studies, neither age nor gender seems to have a significant impact on confidence in the military and there is no significant difference in attitudes toward the military among rural and urban areas.