Failed coup toppled Erdogan’s Turkey but left Erdogan standing
Beirut - For the Turkish people, the failed coup of July 15th was the result of a struggle for power inside political Islam. They hid their indignation at the vile conspiracy between Fethullah Gulen, who is in self-imposed exile in the United States, and President Recep Tayipp Erdogan.
Experts of political Islam remember a similar conspiracy in Sudan between Sheikh Hassan al-Turabi and General Omar al-Bashir. The collusion between those men went as far as pretending to jail Turabi along with those who were arrested during the coup against Sadiq al-Mahdi in June 1989. It became clear afterward that the general was simply an off-shoot of the sheikh.
The Erdogan-Gulen conflict in Turkey is very similar to the al- Bashir-Turabi conflict in Sudan. It is the enactment of the classic scenario in which the hidden partner wants his full share of power. Erdoganism, however, does not allow any other figure to take centre stage.
Gulen’s so-called secret regime deep inside Turkish society could not have been a secret conspiracy against his former ally. Erdogan was well aware of Gulen’s influence on Turkish society and considered it necessary for paving his way and that of his cohorts towards the reins of power.
The head of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) knew about this friendly infiltration but had no idea how widespread and complex it was until it turned into a hostile infiltration a few years before the attempted coup. Suddenly, all of Turkey turned into a dormant enemy in the eyes of the AKP as witnessed by the endless purges taking place.
Turkey has changed since July 15th. On that day, people took to the streets to protect the regime and preserve democracy from rebels in the military. Those who invaded the streets on that evening were primarily from secular opposition parties before being joined by supporters of Erdogan’s party.
The elite and interests represented by Erdogan’s party have started to swing back to policies that represent a break-up with Erdoganism. His megalomania has reached extremes no longer acceptable to these interests nor to the major capitals of the world.
Some political circles in Ankara say the power apparatus in Turkey is no longer subjected to Erdogan’s daydreams. They point out that his AKP did not come to power in a secular system by appealing to religion but rather by speaking the language of business and economic growth and by showcasing the positive results of its alliance with the business community.
Western observers in Turkey concur and remind us that, unlike the Muslim Brotherhoods in Arab countries, the Turkish initial version of political Islam had cleverly avoided brandishing the slogan “Islam is the solution”.
It was thanks to their pragmatic approach to politics that Erdogan and the AKP won the hearts of the Turkish people and the admiration of the international community. The latter might have at one time wished to see the Turkish model of political Islam duplicated in Arab countries but the AKP’s own elite admit that the initial version of Erdoganism has become infected by the virus of the Arab version of political Islam. Erdogan became populist in his approach and started waving the flag of the bygone glory of Islam and the Ottoman empire.
The finance and business sectors in Turkey no longer identify with Erdogan’s dreams. The AKP’s army of consultants and political workers have become convinced that Erdoganism cannot guarantee the party’s staying in power. Erdoganism will have to go even if Erdogan stays in power.
The failed coup reminded everyone of the red lines drawn by Turkey’s secular institutions. Even inside the AKP the pressure to steer away from Islamist movements outside Turkey is mounting. Inside sources admit that the rise to power of Islamist parties in some Arab countries may have tempted Erdogan at some point to play a role beyond the boundaries of a secular Turkey but the downfall of the Muslim Brotherhood in some Arab countries and the failed coup in Turkey brought everyone back to reality.
Some Turkish experts conceived different scenarios to enable the governing elite to make sure that Erdogan places Turkey’s interests and by extension their interests well above his own ambitions. But observers point out that there is no need for these scenarios because it seems that Erdogan himself has eliminated Erdoganism. The recent moves in Turkish diplomacy seem to be inspired by Turkey’s higher interests and not by Erdogan’s.