Turkey coup: What’s actually happening and what does it mean for the future of the country?

The Big Questions: With Turkey in turmoil following a failed military coup, Patrick Cockburn gives his verdict on how events unfolded and what to expect in the coming weeks and months

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The Independent Online

Why was the coup attempt mounted? 

This requires assumptions about who carried out the coup attempt. One theory is that the followers of self-exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen knew that they were going to be purged and decided to strike first. 

Was the coup attempt concocted by President Recep Tayyip​ Erdogan to give himself the excuse to crack down?

It is more likely that Mr Erdogan is taking advantage of a real coup attempt to rid the armed forces and key state institutions of all who do not give him full obedience.

He called it “a gift from God” in that it would allow him to do so. An argument against the theory that the coup attempt was a put-up job is that it involved too many people, including high-ranking military officers, and might even have succeeded if the plotters had been able to eliminate Mr Erdogan. 

Why did the coup fail?

The plotters did not eliminate Mr Erdogan and did not include the majority of the military high command. They did not enjoy any popular support and did not gain control of communications and the media. They did not have enough soldiers to suppress popular protests in favour of the President. The timing of the coup attempt is also peculiar since it took place late Friday night when people were still up and going outside and not in the early hours of the morning as is traditional.

Is the civilian reaction being orchestrated? 

Mr Erdogan successfully orchestrated public protests in order to thwart the coup by calling for them on an iPhone held in front of a television camera. So far as can be judged these were carried out his committed supporters and right-wing nationalists, the numbers on the streets being boosted by free public transport until Monday night. A feature of the coup attempt was that there were no demonstrations in favour of it because the coup plotters announced a curfew and, in any case, Mr Erdogan’s many opponents do not necessarily want him replaced by a military government.

The mosques also played a significant role in mobilising his constituency by calling people onto the streets and delivering sermons all night long as jets flew overhead. Secular Turks are worried that religiously inspired mobs will become a permanent factor in Turkish politics, but there is no doubt that Mr Erdogan is massively popular among a large part of the Turkish public. An online poll by software company Streetbees shows that in answer to the question of whether or not they wanted the army to seize power 82 per cent said no and 18 per cent said yes. The president may be using the coup for his own ends but there is no doubt that he has a democratic mandate. 

Is Turkey still a democracy?

In one sense yes: Mr Erdogan’s AKP party was democratically elected in a general election on 1 November, last year. But he runs an increasingly authoritarian government and has taken over or suppressed most critical television stations and newspapers. Mr Erdogan is getting close to his dream of an all-powerful presidency which controls all the levers of power including the judiciary, armed forces and bureaucracy.

Where does this leave the EU deal and the refugee crisis?

Mr Erdogan is a tough negotiator but has proven himself to be an unreliable partner when it comes to long-term commitments. 

How will this affect relations with Russia (after the plane that was shot down, and ahead of a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin)?

Before the coup Turkey had effectively apologised for shooting down the plane. Mr Erdogan is trying to reduce Turkey’s international isolation by improving relations with Russia and Israel.

But relations with Russia are unlikely to be transformed so long as Turkey is backing groups seeking to overthrow Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and Russia is committed to preventing regime change in Syria.

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