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Turkey’s Parties & Military

September 1, 2018

Turkey’s Parties & Military

Since it came to power in a landslide victory in 2002, the AKP has consistently won parliamentary elections up to this date thanks to a number of factors such as improvement in the quality of life of the most downtrodden segments of Turkish society, use of a populist discourse, repression of rival parties, and institutional arrangements creating an uneven playing field for other political parties.

As of the June 2018 Parliamentary elections, there are five political parties represented in the Turkish parliament, which has one of the highest thresholds in the world (10%) in order to allow a party to enjoy parliamentary representation: Justice and Development Party (AKP): 344 MPs, Republican People’s Party (CHP): 146 MPs, People’s Democratic Party (HDP): 67 MPs, Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): 49 MPs, Good Party (IP): 43 MPs. Due to lacking the numerical majority to form a government, the AKP had to enter into a coalition with the right-wing MHP, making it the first coalition government since AKP embarked on its political history.

In terms of the number of their members, the AKP leads the way. As of August 18th, 2018, the party has 10 million 719 thousand members. The CHP retains 1 million and 216 thousand, followed by the MHP (440 thousand), HDP (30 thousand). The IY, which was founded only this year, has 51 thousand members.

There is a total of 87 electoral districts in Turkey, with certain big cities such as Ankara, Istanbul, Izmir, and Bursa having more than one electoral district. While most of the AKP’s vote comes from the districts in the interior, north, and south of Turkey (including big metropolises like Istanbul, Ankara, and Adana), the biggest opposition, the CHP, votes are mostly concentrated on the western part of Turkey, including cities like Izmir, Aydin, Mugla, and Tekirdag. The HDP’s lead is largely restricted to the predominantly Kurdish-speaking cities in the south-east part of Turkey despite the presence of a high number of HDP voters in cities like Istanbul, Ankara, and Izmir. As for the MHP and the IY, despite having MPs scattered all over the country, none of them enjoy majority status in any city.

 

THE STATE OF THE MILITARY IN TURKEY

Historically, military in Turkey had been a force to be reckoned with. It has orchestrated several coups, with the most recent one being the post-modern coup of 1997 whereby the military deposed the government of Necmettin Erbakan, the leader of the religious Welfare Party, for his perceived attempt at Islamizing society.

When the AKP under Erdogan came to power, the military was very discontent. As the AKP’s hold and popularity increased nationwide, the pressure on the military also gained momentum. Throughout the AKP’s continuous hold on power, Turkey’s historically invincible military suffered two major shocks, which have considerably weakened it. The first shock came in the late 2000s when the Gülenists (at the time, in alliance with the AKP) and the present-day AKP rulers, indicted military officers over alleged plans to overthrow the government, prompting scores of officers and generals to be imprisoned. This facilitated the infiltration of the military by pro-Gülenists. The second shock came during the coup attempt of July 2016 by the military. Erdogan, who blamed the coup on Fetullah Gülen, a religious predicator, launched a massive purge of military personnel that continues to this day. Although the actors of this coup have changed from secularists to Gulenists, they were still from the military. Once the coup attempt was thwarted, the military ceased to be a formidable actor in politics and Erdogan’s rule was even more strengthened.

Throughout these purges, the military faced “internal corrective actions”, meaning its several branches such as the army, navy, and the air force were brought under the direct control of the Turkish Defense Minister, Hulusi Akar, who used to be a Major General. Akar reports directly to President Erdogan. Since the attempted coup, at least 40% of generals and admirals have been dismissed. In the immediate aftermath of the coup attempt, more than 10000 suspected Gülenists were purged from the military. There has also been a 20% reduction in the number of commissioned officers, bringing their number from 32,451 to 25,728.

The military has also been gutted in its structure. The gendarmerie and the coast guard have been separated from the military command and attached to the Ministry of Interior. As of January 2018, the rank, the number and the percentage of the purged officials was as follows:

Generals: 150 (2%), officers: 5030 (%50), non-commissioned officers: 2635 (%26), enlisted sergeants: 1700 (%17), civilian employees: 500 (%5).