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(2) In terms of party association, the armed forces seem to be more popular among those who voted for the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the National Action Party (MHP) in the 2011 general elections. Voting for the ruling AKP does not have a significant impact on trust in the military. This result somewhat contradicts the results of a pervious study conducted by Sarıgil, who found out that among individuals who voted for the pro-Islamist party, the likelihood of observing confidence in the armed forces was lower.73 Yet, the WVS data that was used in Sarıgil’s study was collected in the year 2000, before the AKP was founded. Thus, the study measured the negative association between Virtue Party (FP) voters and trust in the military.
Given that references to Islam in the AKP are less pronounced than they were in the FP, the results do not seem to necessarily oppose this previous finding.
(3) As hypothesized, among those who identify themselves as Turkish nationalists, trust in the military is higher. An unexpected result, however, is evident among those who identify themselves as religious. While Sarıgil’s study conducted by data from 2000 indicated that religious individuals tended to have higher levels of confidence in the military, there is no significant association between the two variables in the analysis derived from the SAFST data.
(4) Support for democracy is positively related with confidence in the military. Both the studies of Tessler and Altınoğlu and Sarıgil explain this somewhat paradoxical finding by the guardian role the armed forces have assumed for themselves.74 In addition, as explained above, the Turkish public’s understanding of “democracy” is different from the theoretical description of a consolidated democracy, where political liberties are also seen as an essential component of a democratic regime. Seen from this perspective, it is no surprise that trust in parliament is also positively associated with trust in the armed forces.
(5) One final expected result is the negative association between pro-Kurdish voters and trust in the military. Confidence in the armed forces is lower among those who have voted for the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP). This is an anticipated finding, since the military has viewed Kurdish separatism as a major internal threat and the armed forces have been the primary institution that has fought against Kurdish terrorism.
(6) For the purposes of this paper, an interesting finding is the impact of the “belief in the Ergenekon case” on military trust. Holding important predictors including party vote in the 2011 elections and demographic variables (such as age, education, place of residence, gender, and income) constant, it is possible to see that there is a strong association between trust in the military and attitudes toward the Ergenekon case. Indeed, among those who believe that the Ergenekon organization exists, there are significantly lower levels of trust in the armed forces. Even though the SAFST was conducted in 2011 and cannot provide a comparison with previous years, this can explain the relative drop in army trust after 2008 observed in the Eurobarometer surveys.
Table 5 provides an analysis of belief in the existence of the Ergenekon terrorist organization by using the ordinal logistic regression model. The results of the model suggest that there is polarization among the public on Ergenekon.
(1) The stance of the political parties toward the Ergenekon trials since the investigation began in 2007 and their 2011 election campaigns are reflected in the opinions of the voters. People who voted for the ruling AKP in 2011 are more likely to have positive attitudes toward the investigation. Being an AKP voter increases the likelihood of being convinced that the terrorist organization is in fact a reality, holding all other variables constant. The exact opposite conclusion can be made with regards to the CHP electorate. Casting a ballot for the CHP in the 2011 elections decreases the likelihood of believing in the Ergenekon organization. This result suggests that the CHP supporters have negative perceptions of the trials and think that the accusations rest on fabricated evidence. The model also shows that those who have a leftist ideology are less likely to have a positive perception on trials than others.75 Since voting for the other opposition parties, the MHP and the BDP, do not have a statistically significant effect on attitudes toward the case, the analysis implies that polarization on Ergenekon is especially acute among the ruling party and its main opposition CHP.
gender have an impact on attitudes toward Ergenekon, whereas place of residence and income do not. More specifically, holding all other variables constant, with each additional 10 years of age, belief in Ergenekon is expected to increase by 0.4 points although the positive effect of age decreases after around 40 years, as the age2 variable suggests.
Education is also related to attitudes toward Ergenekon: as the years of education of individuals increase, belief in the existence of the terrorist organization is also expected to increase. Finally, women tend to be more skeptical towards the case than men.
Conclusion What are the consequences of the Ergenekon investigation for Turkish democracy? This paper attempted to find an answer to this question. The first conclusion is that the operation and trials can be seen as favorable developments that would lead to further democratization. There is evidence suggesting that the Ergenekon investigation is leading to lower levels of trust in the Turkish military among the public. Such decrease in public confidence in the military could lead to democratization for two reasons. First, a military stripped of its popularity might find it more difficult to intervene in politics and resist reforms that would curtail its political powers. Indeed, in practice, the coup investigations have strengthened the AKP government vis-à-vis the military and led to the second-wave reforms in civil-military relations in 2010, after the first wave that started in
1999.76 Second, the fact that suspected individuals are accused of coup plots might lead to the conclusion that non-democratic individuals are sorted out of the armed forces and that the institution behaviorally and attitudinally supports democracy, substantially decreasing the likelihood of staging coups in the future and exercising tutelary powers with threats of such possible interventions. The same argument can be made for the Turkish public in general, as well. Decreases in public trust in the military might go hand in hand with attitudinal and cultural changes in society.
Increasing numbers of “true democrats” would support not only holding regular elections, but also the indispensable norms of liberal democracy, such as individual freedoms.
Despite these hopeful conclusions with regards to the effects of the Ergenekon operation on democracy, the analysis of the SAFST data has also shown that the investigation leads to polarization in Turkey. Since the 1990s, it is possible to observe a split among political party voters, between proIslamists and seculars, and Turkish and Kurdish nationalists. Attitudes toward the Ergenekon investigation parallel the former two cleavages. Given the different discourses of the party leaders on the trials, it is clear that the Ergenekon case is deepening the cleavage among AKP and CHP voters and between the pro-Islamists and seculars. This type of polarization is not conducive to democratic consolidation for two reasons. First, it makes it more difficult for elites and public to come together, agree on the basic rules of the game and provide attitudinal support for democracy. Second, essential facilitators of democracy, mutual trust among significant groups in society and belief that the other group is also loyal to the regime are damaged because of polarization. These mutual suspicions, in turn, lead to anti-democratic activities, such as using repression and looking for exit options.
The positive findings associated with Ergenekon disappear once the negative consequences of the case are analyzed. The conclusion we can reach five years after the start of the Ergenekon operation is that the case has been a double-edged sword for Turkish democracy. It cuts deep into the already existing ruptures of Turkish politics, while it heals other past injuries. It remains to be seen whether Turkish democracy will have been fatally wounded or will have continued its disabled survival after the courts make their final decisions and the Ergenekon trial comes to an end for good.
Gürsoy, “The Impact of EU-Driven Reforms,” pp.297-8.
76 28 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy
Even though the respondents must have been 18 years old or older, in the final survey data, there were two respondents, who were aged 17.
30 turkish public attitudes toward the military and ergenekon: consequences for the consolidation of democracy
The respondents were given the following instruction for the questions 16 to 42: “Now I am going to read you 78 a series of sentences. Can you indicate your opinions on these questions as “I agree,” “I somewhat agree,” and “I disagree?” Note that throughout the survey the term “asker” was used in Turkish. Even though the term could be translated as “soldier” in English, it can also mean the “military” in colloquial language, which is why this term was preferred in the survey questions.
There were 13 respondents who declared that their household income was 0TL and one respondent who declared 4TL. The rest of the respondents stated various numbers ranging from 100TL to 15000TL.
There was no question on the survey, but poll takers noted the addresses of the respondents.
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1. EU/1/2009 Anbarcı, Nejat, Hasan Kirmanoğlu, Mehmet A. Ulubaşoğlu.
Why is the support for extreme right higher in more open societies?
2. EU/2/2010 Öniş, Ziya, Contesting for the “Center”: Domestic Politics, Identity Conflicts and the Controversy Over EU Membership in Turkey
4. EU/4/2011 Kaya, Ayhan, Ayşe Tecmen, The Role of Common Cultural Heritage in External Promotion of Modern Turkey: Yunus Emre Cultural Centres
5. EU/5/2012 Gürsoy, Yaprak, Turkish Public Attitudes toward the Military and Ergenekon: Consequences for the Consolidation of Democracy
İstanbul Bilgi University, European Institute, Dolapdere Campus Kurtuluﬂ Deresi Cad. Yahya Köprüsü Sk. No: 1 34440 Dolapdere / ‹stanbul, Turkey