CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1Since the first competitive elections in Turkey in 1950, the army has intervened in many ways in the country’s politics: via coups d’état, parallel governance, and the financing of political organizations and associations, for example. How can the routine nature of the military presence in a competitive party system be explained?

2In a dominant proportion of the literature devoted to this issue, the army appears as the protector of a political system that is unable to handle crisis situations, [1] and – in a revival of home-grown discourses of legitimation – as the guardian of Kemalist values, and in particular of secularism and Westernization. [2] There is in fact a constitutional justification for the political role of the military as a guardian of the Republic and its institutions: the three constitutions that the country has had (those of 1924, 1961, and 1982) have entrusted the army with the role of protecting the state against external and internal threats. This clause – on the basis of which several generations of officers have legitimized their interventions [3] – was reaffirmed in particular in the aftermath of the first coup d’état via the law of 4 January 1961 on the internal service of the army, which legalized the military’s oversight role in the Republic. [4] Moreover, Article 148 of the military penal code (Askeri Ceza Kanunu) of 22 May 1930 made the army “the vanguard of the revolution” and gave it the right to intervene in the event of a threat to the state’s survival. Article 34 of the 1935 law on the internal service of the army also stated that “the duty of the armed forces is to protect and defend the Turkish homeland and the Republic of Turkey”. [5] Each coup d’état has therefore been presented as an intervention to restore democratic order and national unity, which on each occasion have apparently been threatened by the irresponsibility of political parties or by domestic enemies (Communists, Islamists, or Kurdish separatists). As a result, the literature has long viewed the coups d’état[6] as a response to political crises, [7] with military interventions representing moments of truth in civil-military relations.

3However, these interpretations are not convincing for at least three reasons. First, they do not take into account the highly variable ideological positioning of the military. Although after some hesitation the officers involved in the 1960 coup supported the Liberals, the 1980 coup sought the systematic destruction of the Turkish left (including the reformist branch of it) and the promotion of a Turkish-Islamic synthesis. [8] And the 1997 coup aimed to eliminate the Welfare Party (Refah Partisi), which had emerged out of the Islamic-conservative movement. Second, the diverse contexts in which coups have occurred and the multiple motivations of the coup leaders also encourage a nuancing of the hypothesis of an army that has regularly been forced to intervene because of emerging crises. [9] For example, the intervention of March 1971 was not a response to any major crisis, and the pressure exerted by the army in the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first century show that interventions were not necessarily the result of of paralysis or “drifting” within the political system. In addition, the establishment of clandestine organizations within the army, a recurrent phenomenon from the 1940s, cannot be analyzed as a response to a crisis of the system. It appears to be more an expression of sectional demands within the institution. Furthermore, coups have not been the only response available to the military. Tensions arising within the army due to a loss of status for young officers or an overall budget decrease could be resolved by reforms – or not be resolved at all. Finally, the military coups occurred in very different ways. Sometimes they boiled down to a simple threat (a letter or a public statement, as was the case in 1971 and 1997), but at other times they led to high levels of violence (there were hundreds of thousands of arrests in 1980) or were accompanied by a seizure of power for relatively long periods (as occurred in 1960 and in 1980).

4These differences invalidate the idea of the military occupying an external position and point instead to its routine involvement in everyday politics, all the more so because it maintained an important role between two coups d’état, at least in certain sectors. Following certain researchers who are attentive to the everyday and multi-faceted nature of civil-military relations in Turkey, [10] we should note that the coup is one method of action in a larger repertoire of the military’s involvement in politics, which translates in particular into a profound influence on public policy and government decisions. [11] For example, Roger P. Nye notes that – contrary to what other authors such as Dankwart Rustow suggest through the so-called “one-shot theory of military intervention” [12] – the army has enjoyed “extensive and continuing influence” in civilian politics. [13] Several authors have also shown how the “myth of national security” [14] or “security meta-ideology” [15] allowed the army to gain recognition of its political role from 1980. According to Anouck Corte-Real, the connections that military figures have had to parties, the positions that they have occupied in the state, or even the influence that they have had on several occasions in the drafting of constitutions and laws, have allowed them to achieve an everyday dominance over society. [16]

5In contrast to the interpretation frequently proposed, the military coups were therefore not responses to crisis situations caused by politicians. The army appears much more as an institution involved in creating crises, which it manipulated to increase its own autonomy, legitimize its actions, and increase its social connections. In Turkey, the army created crises and benefited from them by activating three main methods of intervention: building social coalitions, controlling discourse on security, and effectively controlling non-military institutions. Understanding how a military has the means to create political crises in which it presents itself as the solution thus contributes to the sociology of non-routine situations by offering analysis of the social and political usages that some actors manage to make of critical situations.

6In our view, the special position of the Turkish army resulted from the autonomy from the civil authorities that the institution progressively achieved between the end of the 1950s and the end of the 1970s. This hypothesis will be put to the test in the first part of this article. Although works on the subject are rare, several authors have already shown that exposure to the logic of the political sphere transformed both the military and its methods of intervention. [17] More specifically, the autonomy gained by the military was the result of internal tensions coinciding with perceived political opportunity. The interventions of 1960 and 1971 can be explained by the desire of some officers to control the institution’s resources in opposition to the General Staff, the Ministry of Defense, and, more generally, civil institutions. [18] To understand the position that the army occupied in the political sphere between the beginning of the 1960s and the end of the 1970s, it is necessary to analyze two types of tension that were specific to the institution: on the one hand, its political divisions, and on the other hand, the strong social and generational tensions that cut across it. Involvement in politics represented a possible solution for capturing resources and therefore resolving the tensions that undermined the institution.

7The second part of the article will show that the independence acquired by the institution made it possible to become involved in politics through forming social coalitions, becoming dominant over administrative sectors, and producing a security-based legitimizing discourse. From the beginning of the 1980s, the autonomy acquired over the course of the 1960s and 1970s allowed the general staff to enjoy a pivotal function in hegemonic social coalitions; first of all with conservative political and social forces to eliminate the left in the early 1980s, and then with secular and sovereignist forces from the 1990s to neutralize Islamic-conservative parties. In this way, the military consolidated its influence in the political arena, and when its positions were challenged, it retained the ability to create political crises that allowed it to present itself as a solution.

The development of the military’s autonomy

8Between the 1930s and the 1970s, strong social and generational tensions cut across the Turkish army. These explain in part the formation of the clandestine groups of different political persuasions that were directly or indirectly behind the first two coups (which occurred in 1960 and 1971). These were as much coups within the army as they were by the army, and they ultimately led to a reaffirmation of the internal hierarchy. Following these interventions, the army’s new place in the political system allowed the military as an institution to be closed off from civilian governments and to access new resources.

Reaffirming the hierarchy

9In the single-party era, the army played an internal suppression function that was made all the more necessary by the regime’s limited support. [19] Academies and military schools were closed during the First World War, but they reopened between 1923 and 1939. [20] As a result, the number of officers increased significantly from the second half of the 1930s, with Turkey preparing for a possible entry into the Second World War.

10During the second half of the 1940s, the large number of applicants for senior officer posts considerably slowed down career advancement. Moreover, Law 4765 of 26 June 1945 allowed generals who had reached retirement age to remain in their posts. As a result, the time required to become a senior officer increased by three years. Whereas in 1945 an officer could hope to become a senior officer twelve and a half years into his career, it took sixteen years to reach the same level in 1950. This career bottleneck went hand in hand with a decline in living standards for officers from the end of the 1930s. During the Second World War, officers suffered the effects of high inflation – to the point where some abandoned their military careers – because their salaries were not index linked. [21] The government, whose economic room for maneuver was limited, was late to take action over these issues. [22] On 10 May 1960, an end to the alignment of the officer and public servant pay scales was announced, and on 25 May 1960 the government announced a general reorganization of officer pay. The career bottleneck at a time when salaries were being eaten away by inflation exacerbated the divide between officers and generals. The former were particularly critical of the links between members of the general staff and the government, which prevented any structural reform of the army. [23]

11In this context, the victory of the Democrat Party (Demokrat Parti, DP) in the 1950 parliamentary elections brought the first political changeover and represented for officers and generals, who were in tentative agreement, the hope of recovering the autonomy and prestige that the military had lost during the last years of the government of the Republican People’s Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP). From 1946, the DP had invited several former generals, as well as the former chief of staff of the armed forces, Fevzi Çakmak, to appear on its candidate lists. [24] The general staff therefore did not dispute the changeover. It even gave assurances of its support to the new government. A number of officers also turned away from the CHP [25] and were initially inclined to move closer to the DP, hoping that the party would reform the army. [26] However, in July 1953 the Democrats abandoned Defense Minister Seyfi Kurtbek’s project to reform the armed forces, which had aimed to rejuvenate the senior officer corps. [27] Furthermore, economic growth [28] slowed down from 1954, and real wages for public servants dropped between 25% and 35% between 1954 and 1960 as a result of inflation. [29] Because officers and non-commissioned officers had been excluded from the compromise reached between the party and the military hierarchy, the DP lost the broad support that it hitherto enjoyed in these sectors.

12The coup d’état of 27 May 1960 revealed internal conflicts within the army and the weakness of its internal control and normalization mechanisms. Challenge to the military hierarchy led to open fighting during the months following intervention; [30] the young putschist colonels sought to neutralize the high command, which did not participate in the preparation of the coup d’état. [31] A total of 235 of the 272 generals and admirals, [32] 344 general staff officers and 3,672 officers were sent into retirement; the vast majority of the commanding officer positions were refilled. [33] Tensions then found their way into the junta, [34] where the few generals placed in executive positions were able to exclude fourteen of the most radical members of the National Unity Committee – the body that at the time acted in a legislative and government-oversight capacity – and restructure it around a smaller team that comprised 23 members. The quarrelling between the colonels and the conditions for returning power to civilians resulted in the institution being taken over by the general staff. There was then a process of tidying up the institution, whose disciplinary mechanisms, in particular, were strengthened.

A tradition of politicizing officers

Since the nineteenth century, Ottoman and Turkish army officers had been politicized within clandestine organizations. This phenomenon became more widespread after 1908, when the Committee of Union and Progress, which mostly comprised military personnel, obtained the sultan’s agreement to restore the Ottoman Constitution of 1876. This entry of military figures into the political arena, which made them decisive actors when the empire came to an end, inspired many illegal groups in the army between the 1940s and the 1970s. The political role of the military in the new regime took on a formal dimension after the Republic was proclaimed in 1923. The War of Independence (1918-1922) was when the founders of the new regime acquired their political legitimacy. Throughout the period of the single party (1923-1946), the channels between the military, the party, and the highest levels of the administration increased in number.
However, the politicization of officers also took on an anti-establishment tone as career prospects deteriorated. This led to the emergence of new clandestine organizations, which the high command fought against. [35] These groups most often sought to bring about a redistribution of command posts and senior officer ranks in the event of a coup d’état. Beyond these corporatist demands, these organizations were politically very diverse – from left-wing Kemalists to the far right – and were divided on the issue of the place that the army should occupy following intervention.
Until his retirement in 1944, Marshal Fevzi Çakmak, the chief of general staff of the armed forces, managed to stifle all attempts at an uprising from within the army. [36] However, as early as 1941 or 1942, general staff colonel Seyfi Kurtbek (who would become defense minister in the Democrat government of 1952) set up an underground organization, Seyfi Kurtbek Ekibi (the Seyfi Kurtbek Group), in order to challenge the way in which the pairing of İsmet İnönü and Fevzi Çakmak was running the institution. In 1946, Cemal Yıldırım, a general staff commander close to Kurtbek, created another organization at the Military Academy (Harp Akademisi), which academy president Colonel Kadri Erkmen, general staff commander Naci Aşkun, general staff colonel Memduh Tağmaç, and General Cevdet Sunay all joined. [37] From 1954, clandestine organizations increased in number and sought to overthrow the government. At the end of 1957, Prime Minister Menderes managed to dismantle a network of plotting officers, who were arrested and sentenced at the end of what is known as “the nine officers incident” (9 Subay Olayı). According to Doğan Akyaz, the discovery of this network had the effect of shaping subversive activities within the army and strengthening clandestine organizations, which saw their ranks swell. [38] The Second Unified Organization (İkinci Birleşik Örgüt) was created on 14 September 1959 when putschist officers who had participated in several clandestine organizations established since 1954 joined together. Most of the officers involved in the May 1960 coup would come from its ranks.
During the 1960s, groups from the radical left that were committed to the idea of a revolution carried out jointly by intellectuals and progressive military figures grew closer to dissident officers. The group, which gravitated around the journal Yön [Viewpoint], offered the army a leading role in the coming revolution. A clandestine political party, the National Revolution Party (Ulusal Devrim Partisi), which was composed of officers and civilian leaders connected to Yön, was also established in 1969, as was a General Revolutionary Council (Devrim Genel Kurulu), whose members ran the journal Devrim [Revolution], a publication that spread the group’s ideas in left-wing circles until the intelligence services became aware of it. [39] Other political parties and groups from the radical left recruited dissident officers, including Doğu Perinçek’s TİİKP, which may have had between 40 and 50 officers in its ranks, and the movement led by the Communist intellectual Hikmet Kıvılcımlı. Nearly 70 officers participated in its activities. [40]

13Unlike in 1960, the coups of 1971 and 1980 were initiated by the high command, and all dissident plots were subsequently aborted. However, the memorandum sent by the general staff to the Demirel government on 12 March 1971, and the placing of the government under military supervision until 1973, were aimed largely at preventing intervention by radical officers. The strengthening of disciplinary mechanisms following the intervention of March 1971 also significantly reduced contacts between officers and political parties.

Closing out civilians

14By intervening directly in the political arena, the military implemented different arrangements that were intended to strengthen the high command and control over resources, and thus led to its own autonomy. It gained independence from the defense minister, control over personnel (through recruitment and purges), and an increased role for the National Security Council (Millî Güvenlik Kurulu, MGK).

15Under the single-party regime, the chief of general staff had substantial autonomy in the management of the army, including with regard to its budget and its internal organization. During the War of Independence, he was on an equal footing with the defense minister, whom he sat beside in the Council of Ministers. [41] The law of 3 March 1924 made the chief of general staff totally independent of the government. He was appointed through a nomination which was agreed upon by the president of the Republic. Mustafa Kemal’s choice was Marshal Fevzi Çakmak, who held this position for 21 years and became one of his strongest allies in the state apparatus. But after Fevzi Çakmak’s retirement, the chief of general staff lost many of his prerogatives. Law 4580 of 5 June 1944 represented a first step towards government control over the army. The chief of general staff answered directly to the prime minister and lost the autonomy he had enjoyed over troop management. The law specified that “army commanders are appointed, taking into account the opinion of the chief of the general staff of the armed forces and following nomination by the prime minister, by the Council of Ministers”. [42] Law 5398 of 30 May 1949 dealt a new blow to the position of chief of general staff. This individual, who was appointed by the Council of Ministers following nomination by the defense minister, was no longer accountable to the prime minister but to the defense minister instead, whom he now served as an advisor (müsteşar). The commanders of the armed forces, army inspectors, army generals, and admirals were chosen by the Council of Ministers following nomination by the defense minister, at the end of a procedure in which the chief of the general staff’s opinion was purely an advisory one. [43]

16The 1960 coup marked a reversal of the trend. The constitution drafted in 1961 under military supervision reformed the status of the presidency of the general staff and of the Ministry of Defense. Article 110 of the constitution made the chief of the general staff the commander of the armed forces in both peace time and war time. The presidency of the general staff also had its remit expanded with regard to formulating defense policy, setting the military budget, and managing officers’ careers. Although the commission of legal experts responsible for drafting the constitution advocated placing the chief of the general staff under the responsibility of the defense minister, the ruling junta modified their draft and made the chief of the general staff responsible only to the head of the government. [44] Ultimately, he was appointed by the president of the Republic following nomination by the Council of Ministers. In 1970, the laws of 16 and 18 June further strengthened the military’s autonomy. The first of these, “on the functions and powers of the chief of the general staff”, and the second, “on the organization, functions and competencies of the Ministry of National Defense”, reduced the influence of the Ministry of Defense, which was restricted to serving the role of resources agency to the general staff. [45] After the 1980 coup d’etat, the minister had no more than a transmission role between the military and the government.

17The 1971 intervention also allowed the military high command to implement mechanisms for career management that ensured its political cohesion. Purges were regularly conducted to restore or modify balances within the institution. But until 1971, removed officers could turn to the Council of State to contest the decisions that affected them, and often they were successful. [46] Several officers who had been excluded from the army for subversive activities following the coup d’etat of 12 March 1971 brought the matter to the Council of State and entered into a legal battle with the general staff, which then obtained parliamentary approval for the law of 4 July 1972 to establish military tribunals and a High Administrative Military Court (Askerî Yüksek İdare Mahkemesi), a body comparable to a military council of state. [47] The judicial autonomy thus obtained would only start to erode during the first decade of the twenty-first century. [48] The general staff then had the means to purify the army of elements that were politically deviant or suspect. In the aftermath of 12 March 1971, 57 officers and eleven NCOs were removed for breaches of national security, followed in November 1972 by 270 officers, 54 NCOs, and 70 cadets. [49]

18Furthermore, in order to ensure control over appointments and promotions within the institution, the Supreme Military Council (Yüksek Askerî Şura) was created by Law 1612 of 26 July 1972. [50] Twice a year, the prime minister, the chief of the general staff of the armed forces, the defense minister, the commanders of the armed forces (kuvvet komutanları), and commanders of the army (ordu komutanları), gendarmerie, and navy would meet to decide on nominations, promotions, and retirements for officers. Because the decisions were made through absolute majority, the military retained total control over officers’ careers. This system remained in place until the first decade of the twenty-first century. [51]

19Finally, the 1961 constitution established a National Security Council (Millî Güvenlik Kurulu, MGK), which “comprised ministers determined by law, the chief of the general staff of the armed forces, and the commanders of the armed forces”. The MGK was chaired by the president of the Republic or, in his absence, by the prime minister. It “informed the Council of Ministers of its opinions in order to contribute to the development of national security decisions”. [52] The constitutional changes brought about by the technocratic governments chosen by the military in the aftermath of the coup of 1971 resulted in the restructuring of the MGK, which gained an increased influence over the political arena. The MGK would no longer simply give advice on national security policy. Instead, it would make recommendations that ministers would have to take into account. In fact, it functioned as the pivot between politics and the military, and as a result the general staff had influence over institutional policy and the ability to exercise continuous control over public policies related to security in a broad sense of the term. [53] The coup d’état of 12 September 1980 allowed the general staff to further extend the influence of the MGK, with Article 118 of the 1982 Constitution broadening its powers. Its secretary-general would be a general chosen by the chief of the general staff, and its decisions, which were sometimes made in secret, were never subject to appeal. [54] It could “advise” the government on practically any subject, from foreign policy to education and crime fighting. Much more than a mere advisory body, the MGK had a large administrative staff at its disposal and enjoyed the right to intervene directly in ministries, making it truly a parallel government until the first decade of the twenty-first century. [55]

Control over resources

20Investing in the political field represented one possible response to the tensions created by a scarcity of resources. During the 1960, 1971, and 1980 coups, the military introduced measures to ensure the financial autonomy of the army by circumventing parliament. [56] With each intervention, the military further asserted its autonomy in budgetary matters, diversified its extra-budgetary revenues, and organized the redeployment of retired officers into different economic sectors. In addition, current and former military officers enjoyed extensive rights, especially in housing and health, which allowed opposition to be forestalled. [57]

21For example, the Mutual Assistance Institution of the Army (Ordu Yardımlaşma Kurumu, OYAK), a military pension fund, was created by the ruling junta on 3 January 1961 to “improve officers’ socioeconomic status”. [58] Permanent or limited-service officers and NCOs, as well as public servants and civilian personnel in the army, members of the gendarmerie, and members of the Ministry of Defense and their families, were automatically members of the institution, as were employees of businesses in which OYAK held more than 50% of the capital. The pension fund was financed by a deduction of 10% on the salaries of active military personnel and 5% for reservist officers. In return, OYAK provided insurance and supplementary pensions for the Turkish army, and it looked after some of soldiers’ daily needs.

22Through this pension fund, the military would become a major player in the Turkish economy. From the 1960s, OYAK invested in an increasing number of sectors, becoming one of the most powerful Turkish holdings. OYAK does of course produce returns on the contributions of 259,000 members (in 2010), but its revenues come principally from its multiple subsidiaries, the number and the scope of whose activities have proliferated over time. [59] It should be added that the army is the largest landowner in Turkey. Other measures were designed to relieve the military from dependency on budgetary resources. The military entered the charity domain with the creation on 17 May 1982 – a period of military administration – of the TSK Mehmetçik Vakfı (TSKMEV) Foundation, to “provide for the material needs of families of wounded conscripts or combat deaths, and also […] to promote the Turkish armed forces’ activities among the population” [60] through collecting donations from the civilian sector. The Defense-Industry Support Fund (Savunma Sanayi Destek Fonu, SSDF) and the State Secretariat for Industry and Defense (Savunma Sanayi Müsteşarlığı, SSM), which were created on 7 November 1985, had the goal of ensuring regular financing for military equipment [61] by appropriating fiscal and extra-budgetary resources. The army thereby acquired diversified sources of funding, including a share of company taxes and taxes on petroleum, tobacco, and alcohol, as well as a portion of the revenue from the national lottery and pools. By diversifying its sources of income, it reduced its dependence on any particular economic sector [62] and had stable and regular revenues on which parliamentary and governmental decisions had little bearing.

23The entry of the military into the economic world also led to the redeployment of retired officers into industrial or banking groups. From the 1980s, the liberalization of the banking sector allowed many officers, the majority of whom were members of the ruling junta between 1980 and 1983, to join the boards of new financial firms. For such organizations, the presence of military figures facilitated collusive practices by allowing privileged access to the public authorities. In a context where the military-led National Security Council was associated with the country’s government, the army represented “insurance against economic risks through foreknowledge of government economic decisions, including on devaluations or subsidies”. [63] The recruitment of military figures by private companies, which was by no means confined to the banking sector, contributed to certifying military competence in economic matters, as well as to constructing an image of army excellence and to disseminating a security-based ideology that gave the military multiple competences that could be transferred to other domains.

24The economic success of the OYAK pension fund reinforced this perception of military economic excellence. With its involvement in many sectors, including the automotive, cement, steel, insurance, and banking industries, OYAK was also an effective means of diversifying the military’s positions and interests. In 2001, OYAK acquired the Sümerbank, saving one of the country’s oldest banking institutions. Through its pension fund, the army therefore came to be the national economy’s protector. And when officer participation in the activities of financial firms exposed some officers to various scandals that shook the banking sector at the start of the new millennium, [64] the general staff was able to reallocate them to Sümerbank, which was renamed OYAK Bank. The 2001 financial crisis also encouraged former officers to move to other sectors, in particularly consultancy [65] and private-sector research.

The army as actor in politics

25The closing off of the military and the progressive strengthening of the high command allowed it to intervene in politics on an increasingly routine basis. Through a learning process that began with the 1960 coup d’état, the army gradually acquired the discursive and institutional resources that enabled it to form networks of actors in different social sectors in the 1980s and 1990s. These social coalitions in return opened up the possibility of the military creating multi-sectoral mobilizations that could potentially lead to political ruptures. The military’s presence can be characterized in three main ways: discourse centered on the fight against reactionism (irtica) and domestic enemies, the formation of coalitions with political and social actors, and the direct or indirect exercise of power.

The discursive level: irtica and the internal enemy

26From the 1960s, the military gradually acquired the opportunity to define threats to the regime through mastering a security-focused discourse that articulated the threat of a conservative reactionism (irtica) opposed to the gains of the Kemalist revolution, and that of domestic Communist or Kurdish-nationalist enemies.

27In order to legitimize the 1960 coup, the colonels behind it appropriated attacks on the authoritarian turn of the government that had originally been formulated by opposition parties and liberal groups. One of the peculiarities of this learning process that the military underwent centered on the fact that officers did not yet have a legitimizing discourse of their own. The colonels behind the coup justified their intervention through the constitutional role that fell upon them to protect democracy and the unity of the state. When the coup d’état was announced on the radio, Colonel Türkeş gave the assurance that the army was taking power to put a nonpartisan administration in place, whose objective was to return power to civilians as quickly as possible through free elections. When the general staff took control over the committee, it guaranteed respect for civil and political liberties to political personnel – in part by drafting a constitution that was unanimously seen as the most liberal in the country’s history – in return for recognizing greater autonomy for the army.

28In March 1971, the intervention methods were different. The general staff intervened to catch a group of plotting radical officers unawares, [66] though the situation was not defined in the media or by political personnel as exceptional or particularly threatening. In particular, institutions were functioning normally and the level of violence was low. So the general staff defined – or invented – the crisis against which it claimed to have intervened. Based on this, it mobilized a rhetoric of threat. In practice, the general staff justified its intervention by invoking the social unrest caused by the far left’s mobilizations, the altercations between members of opposed radical groups, the establishment of an Islamic-conservative party (the National Order Party, Milli Nizam Partisi), and the separatist danger created by Kurdishnationalist mobilizations. Henceforth, the army would systematically use security-based discourse to legitimize its interventions.

29The severity of the socio-political problems facing the country during the second half of the 1970s lent a greater ring of truth to this focus on security. At a time when Turkey was undergoing the most serious economic crisis in its history, political groups mobilized opposing political and social models whose radical nature ruled out any scope for compromise. The lack of consensus among the political elite, a constant since the transition to multiparty politics in 1945, was also a problem of hegemony, because no social coalition managed to impose a social model. In this context, the weakness of the capacities of public institutions prevented governments from containing the violence and social unrest caused by clashes between radical movements, the constituency for which was increasing. By mobilizing a repertoire of legitimation based on security, the armed forces obtained the widespread support of a population that had become angered by governments’ inability to put an end to the bloody conflict between left-wing and right-wing radical groups and to lead the country out of the financial and economic crisis that it had been in since the second oil crisis. In addition, by becoming a convert to neoliberalism, the army received support from Turkey’s major employers and a segment of senior public servants who supported the idea of transforming Turkish society along the lines of the Thatcherite model.

30After 1980, the emphasis given to the issue of national security (milli güvenlik) justified the military’s political role, whether the enemies singled out were Communists (in 1980), Kurdish nationalists (during the 1980s and 1990s) or Islamists (1997 and 2007). The “mythologizing of national security” [67] orchestrated by the military imposed an “obligatory consensus” [68] on the army’s political role. It justified the spread of a security-based slant on all areas of social activity (for example, information, education, the economy, and politics) and provided the “consensual bases” [69] for the security system that the army set up from 1980. This system was characterized by the spread of a “security meta-ideology” that legitimized the implementation of a mechanism of dual political control, within which the army prevailed over civilian governments. [70] During the 1980s, this security meta-ideology justified in particular the establishment of a social coalition with conservatives and economically liberal circles to counter the Communist threat and protect the country from disintegration. It should also be noted that, constrained by the control exercised by the security institutions over political debate, protest mobilizations often used the language of national security to express their demands. [71] This common language facilitated closer ties for them with the military, and sometimes their instrumentalization. Faced with the strengthening of the Islamic-conservative parties in the 1990s, the army turned to secular and “national-sovereignist” networks by repositioning its discourse towards the protection of Kemalism from Islamist “reactionism” (irtica). This discursive register, which articulated a defense of liberties and secularism (as was the case in 1960), played a central role in opposing the AKP until the party managed to prevail over the general staff, particularly on the back of the European dynamic that it initially supported.

Political alliances and social coalitions

31From the early 1960s, the army forged alliances in social sectors in which, in principle, it was not supposed to intervene. Nevertheless, each coup d’état (1960, 1971, and 1980) emerged from a different dynamic. Whereas in the first of the coups the army arbitrated between the country’s two main political forces, the 1971 intervention was largely a product of internal tensions in the army, meaning that the general staff did not turn to any social coalition. And the 12 September 1980 coup d’état operated according to yet another dynamic: the military chose its allies for the coalition to support its act in advance. During the next two decades, the army increased its alliances and connections in many social sectors. This allowed it to orchestrate political crises through a coordinated mobilization of its civilian allies, without its having to carry out direct interventions and seize power from civilians.

32In 1960, the plotting colonels intervened once other social forces had already mobilized to denounce the Democrat government’s slide toward authoritarianism. The coup therefore appears to have been an exploitation of the political crisis by the military. Some members of the National Union Committee that was set up to run the country were in favor of quickly handing power back to civilians – preferably to İsmet İnönü’s CHP – whereas others preferred a lengthy period of military administration. And another current of opinion favoured the formation of a civil government out of a political party created by the army. Contrary to the idea widely put forward in the literature on this coup d’état, the intervention therefore does not appear to have been the result of an alliance between progressive social forces and colonels driven by the desire to restore civil and political liberties that had been put in jeopardy by the conservative government in power. The putschist colonels, who by no means shared the same political agenda, worked together toward reform of the armed forces that involved reversing the hierarchical relationships within the institution. Their motivations were therefore essentially sectoral, and divisions emerged once the National Unity Committee had been set up. [72]

33When power was handed back to civilians in 1961, General Cemal Gürsel, until then the leader of the junta, was elected president of the Republic by parliament. Cevdet Sunay, chief of the general staff, exercised tight control over the activities of parties and the government. The political coalition established via the 1960 coup therefore came about a posteriori. And although the officers who prevailed in the army initially preferred returning the CHP to power, they agreed to work with the Justice Party (Adalet Partisi, AP), the heir to the Democrat Party following its closure as a result of the 1960 coup. It formed a government alone in 1965 and was the new heavyweight on the Turkish political scene. Süleyman Demirel, the AP prime minister, implemented a policy of rapprochement with the general staff [73] to prevent the overthrow of his government. In 1966, the AP supported the candidature of Cevdet Sunay, the chief of general staff of the armed forces, [74] for the presidency of the Republic. It was a move that only temporarily protected the party, whose government was overthrown on 12 March 1971. The 1971 intervention was also once again the product of the internal dynamics in the army. It was an anticipatory coup that was spearheaded by the general staff to forestall an intervention planned by young officers. The coup aimed to put in place legal and institutional mechanisms that would allow the high command to bring about the reordering of the institution that had begun with the 1960 intervention. To a degree, the coup took place in a social vacuum, with the military not turning to any civil partner for support for its intervention – other than the sector of political and administrative staff called on to participate in national union governments that followed the coup until 1973. This feature of the coup probably explains why it resulted in no radical political changes.

34The situation was different for the 1980 coup d’état. Here, the army entered into new alliances with parties and groups (for example, cultural associations and interest groups) from “civil society”. In contrast to 1960, the military did not seek to ally itself with an opposition political party for support for its intervention. Instead, it banked on its “neutrality”. The intervention was accompanied by a very high level of violence (the arrest of all political personnel, systematic torture of activists from radical groups, martial law, and so forth), which silenced any temptation to oppose it. Moreover, unlike the 1960 coup, the army did not rely on an already established social movement in its attempt to intervene. During the preparation of the coup d’état, which took place at the end of 1979, [75] it worked to establish social connections that would support its actions upon assuming power. It turned to a sector of senior public servants, which it promoted to the most strategic positions for the security-based neoliberal reforms that the state would orchestrate. It also turned to employers, who were among the main beneficiaries of the intervention. The many reforms undertaken by the military granted this group much more favorable conditions than those of the previous decade. Trade unions were closed and saw their rights severely restricted, and wages decreased. The country went from a planned and redistributive economy that was linked to relatively wide civic and social rights to a neoliberal economic model secured by a security-based system in which the army occupied a central position for more than twenty years. [76] The military therefore initiated a true social and economic revolution. By becoming the pivot for broad social coalitions under the guise of national security, it had the means to intervene in the political arena on a more regular and – in appearance only – less direct basis. The autonomy that it had gained via successive interventions allowed it to form hegemonic or counterhegemonic social coalitions when elected governments did not meet its expectations, and in this way it became a leading political actor.

35Military figures put in place material and ideological support for political parties, associations, and interest groups that were likely to defend the positions adopted by the military with regard to politics, the economy, and associations. These social coalitions allowed the general staff to routinely take action in the political arena. And they also allowed it to create situations of political crisis when it broke off its collusive dealing with government parties and brought about coordinated mobilization through its sectoral connections. During the 1990s, officers became brokers of a “national-sovereignist” action system, whose components each represented social “sources of diffusion” [77] of the security metaideology. The coup of 28 February 1997 can be analyzed from this perspective. According to Anouck Corte Real, it “revealed the activation of military insertion points within socalled civil society […]. A very diverse range of social connections was activated […] – from the media to NGOs and employers’ organizations – highlighting the private and civil ‘fortifications’ of military power, such as the TÜSİAD (Turkish Industrialists’ and Businessmen’s Association), the Association for the Support of Contemporary Living, the Atatürk Association, the Women’s Union Platform, and so forth.” [78] This was particularly the case of “Kemalist” or “patriotic” (ulusalcı) organizations, which mobilized the security-based discursive register (denunciation of domestic enemies and the risks of the nation becoming divided and the country broken up) to stigmatize their competitors. In March 2007, Nokta magazine published several excerpts from the diaries of Admiral Özden Örnek, the former commander of the navy. They revealed plans drawn up in 2004 for two coups d’état by armed forces commanders, and they suggested that particular attention was paid to mobilizing media personalities and the business, trade union, and university sectors to destabilize the government. [79] The Atatürkist Thought Association (Atatürkçü Düşünce Derneği, ADD), the Association for the Support of Contemporary Living (Çağdaş Yaşamı Destekleme Derneği), the National Forces Association (Kuvayi Milliye Derneği; an association founded in 2005 by former Colonel Fikri Karadağ), the Union of Patriotic Forces (Vatansever Kuvvetler Güç Birliği Hareketi), and the Youth Union of Turkey (Türkiye Gençlik Birliği) [80] were among the best known of these associations affiliated with the national-sovereignist action system during the first decade of the twenty-first century. Since the AKP’s ascent to power, officials from each of these organizations have also been implicated in different legal proceedings begun in recent years against civil-military networks accused of fomenting coup plots.

The Workers’ Party (İşçi Partisi, İP), which became the Patriotic Party (Vatan Partisi, VP) in February 2015, is one of the bridgeheads of the national-sovereignist action system in the political domain. [81] The support that it has benefited from since its creation in 1992 offers a good example of the influencing strategies deployed by the army. In a study conducted in 2003, we showed that the party’s financial resources were far larger than what its different official sources of funding (membership contributions, sale of publications, income from advertisements, and so forth) would enable it to generate. It also appeared that the party had contacts with the intelligence services, which provided it with a number of documents whose publication was used to undermine opponents of the national-sovereignist action system. One of the features of the İP’s recruitment of personnel was the military origin of several of its leaders, who would generally participate in the activities of other organizations within the action system. This ultra-minority party has never had more than a few thousand members and never managed to exceed one percent of votes cast at a national or local election. However, it has benefited from substantial financial resources that have allowed it to publish a daily newspaper (Aydınlık) and several weekly and monthly publications (the political magazine Gençlik Cephesi [The Youth Front] and the monthly Bilim ve Utopya [Science and Utopia]) and run a publishing house (Kaynak Yayınları) and a television channel (Ulusal Kanal [the National Channel]). The party has therefore been able to reach an audience that far exceeded the sphere of its supporters, and its “specialism” has been publishing information and documents that could destabilize governments and political staff from outside the national-sovereignist action system.

36The army’s capacity to create situations of political crisis by mobilizing its various sectoral allies was particularly noticeable during the 2007 presidential election, in which the Islamic-conservative AKP candidate appeared to be in a position to beat the individual preferred by the general staff. On 14 April 2007, a few days before the first round of the presidential election in parliament, unprecedentedly large demonstrations were organized against Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s candidacy. Although on 27 April the AKP resigned itself to nominating Abdullah Gül, the opposition parties boycotted the poll. Gül won the majority of the votes, but the opposition went to the Constitutional Court to invalidate the election due to the lack of a quorum. That same day, a press release was published on the official website of the armed forces, in which they expressed their concern at the dangers hanging over secularism and reaffirmed their determination “to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey”. On 29 April new “Republican meetings” were organized in Istanbul and Ankara. More than 300 organizations were involved, including the influential Atatürkist Thought Association, together with organizations from the national-sovereignist action system. At the beginning of May, the Constitutional Court invalidated the election. This led to new elections being organized, in which the AKP emerged victorious. This surplus of electoral legitimacy finally allowed the party to secure Gül’s election as president. Although this sequence marked, ex post facto, the beginning of the army’s marginalization, it nevertheless shows how the collusive relations between associations, political actors, and the military can influence the political arena and coerce the government.

Military government

37The “dual command” that ushered in parallel government favoring the military [82] was organized through the expanded powers enjoyed by the National Security Council (MGK). Until 2003, this institution, which was reformed through the 1982 Constitution, was under de facto military control. The offensive launched against the Refah-DYP (Welfare Party and True Path Party [Doğru Yol Partisi]) coalition government on 28 February 1997 involved an MGK resolution on education and the fight against religious reactionism (irtica); it caused the fall of the government and then the banning of Refah in 1998. Much more than an advisory body, the MGK enjoyed extensive administrative support and the right to intervene directly in ministries. It was truly a parallel government that was able to impose its decisions on civilian governments. The ruling parties were therefore forced to collaborate with the MGK and accept military “dual command” in order to stay in power. Until Abdullah Gül’s election as president in 2007, the military could also rely on a large number of supporters within the higher ranks of public administration. According to Cizre, this secular establishment consisted of the “president of the Republic, segments of the judiciary connected with national security issues (that is, public prosecutors, the Constitutional Court, and the former state security courts), the senior ranks of the civil bureaucracy, and particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, which, historically, formulated and led foreign policy in coordination with the general staff”. [83] In conjunction with the mobilization of security-based discourse, these positions allowed the institution to ally with groups for which alliance with the military represented a strategic option. These positions and institutional connections gave the army a structural role in the formation of hegemonic or protesting socio-political coalitions. The army was therefore able to prohibit opposition parties’ access to power by working its collusive links with parties in government, but it was also able to destabilize particular governments with a web of alliances with minority parties and protest organizations.

38However, since 2002 and the formation of the first AKP government, the “security regime” has gradually collapsed as a result of multiple constraints, the respective weight of which – as is often the case in the social sciences – is difficult to quantify. The political balances changed following the elections of 3 November 2002 and the forming of the AKP single-party government. The wave of reforms linked to the country’s EU membership candidacy and the requirements of international backers and the International Monetary Fund have strongly contributed to marginalizing the military in the political system. They have encouraged employers to distance themselves from the army and support the AKP’s reformist initiatives. Furthermore, in the context of the internationalization of the Turkish economy and the increasing influence of the European Union and supranational financial organizations since the 1990s, coups d’état are costly solutions. Control of public institutions by the army, something that Turkey’s allies criticize, has become counterproductive for entrepreneurs looking to access external markets. A significant proportion of the business community therefore withdrew its support for the army in the first decade of the twenty-first century in favor of the new dominant party, which was campaigning for closer ties with the European Union.

39The National Security Council has seen its functions undergo considerable change, and as a result its influence has declined since 2003. [84] Its decisions are no longer binding on the government. Its general secretary is now a civilian. Its meetings, once held monthly, now take place every two months. And the deputy prime minister and the justice minister are now members of the MGK, strengthening the number of civilians relative to military figures. Moreover, by becoming a dominant party able to govern alone, the AKP has been able to implement a strategy of penetrating state institutions wholesale and standing up to the national-sovereignist networks embedded in the public administration. Through its connections within the judiciary, the party has benefited from a series of “legal crusades” launched against putschist officers to regain control of the highest echelons of the institution, [85] while celebrating the democratic virtues of civilian control of the armed forces. For example, in October 2008 – a few months after an unsuccessful attempt by the attorney general to close the AKP and ban 71 of its leaders from political activity [86] – the first legal proceedings against military figures began. These targeted members of Ergenekon, an organization that had infiltrated the state and was accused of committing criminal acts to prepare a coup. The Ergenekon trial would affect both the military high command – a tenth of active generals were detained – and less senior officers, as well as many members of national-sovereignist associations and figures from civil society known for their opposition to the ruling party (journalists, academics, lawyers, and so forth).

40The configuration of the Turkish political system in the 2010s is closer to that of the 1950s, when the dominant Democrat Party managed to reach an understanding with a section of the military high command at the expense of officers. However, unlike in the 1950s, nowadays the military has control procedures and disciplinary mechanisms that prohibit any significant subversive movement. Military figures therefore no longer appear to be in a position to put an end to the strengthening of the dominant ruling party. The AKP has had the leeway required to put in place a dominant (economic, political, and social) model. As the massive demonstrations at Taksim Square in Istanbul in the spring of 2013 and the inability of the government to resolve the Kurdish “question” have shown, this model is not a consensus-based one. In this context of massive appropriation of state positions and resources by the ruling party, this disagreement on the social model is coupled with a very low level of trust among political elites. [87] And for the first time since the beginning of the 1960s, these social and political conflicts are occurring without the army being able to exploit them.

41* * *

42On a theoretical level, analyzing the involvement of the army in the political arena contributes to a better understanding of the emergence and usages of non-routine situations. Existing models have proved to be ill-suited to examining these phenomena. [88] Although Pierre Bourdieu defined crisis situations as a coincidence of structural tensions in different fields, [89] the 1960 coup was the only one in Turkey that corresponds to this definition. The other critical junctures during which the army intervened were characterized by tensions in the political sector or in the military, but never in both at the same time. In 1971, 1980, 1997, and 2007, what we see is instead either exploitation – even invention – of a crisis by the military, or the exporting of an internal military crisis to the political field. Moreover, the analytical model for political crises developed by Michel Dobry relates only to a “particular category of crises, namely those associated with mobilizations that simultaneously affect several different social spheres within a single society”. [90] Besides the fact that this model only allows us to understand crisis circumstances characterized by a process of multi-sectorization of mobilizations, its usefulness is limited when it comes to understanding rupture situations in societies where social sectors are poorly differentiated.

43In other words, these offerings at best only explain a restricted class of phenomena. A theoretical generalization would entail a more rigorous characterization of initial relations between sectors, particularly in societies in which the autonomy of those sectors is limited by a set of institutions or trans-sectoral networks. [91]

44In this study, the Turkish army’s methods of intervention in politics show that non-routine situations may be the products of actors’ strategy. But this ability to produce crises appears to be conditioned by a capacity for multi-positioning, which allows coherence to be established between different sectors (in terms of their issues, rhythms, and internal dividing lines). Implantation in the state apparatus therefore appears to be crucial, particularly in systems with a planned economy or in which the key resources are state controlled – though perhaps less so within systems with a wider dispersion of resources between public and private sectors. The army acquired this multi-positioning capacity in Turkey between 1960 and 1980, but this is also the case with regard to certain political parties that, by appropriating resources and institutional positions, could create the conditions for a crisis. [92] This ability to call on multiple positions within state and social institutions facilitated the establishment of social coalitions, the activation of which allowed multi-sectoral mobilizations. Finally, the production of discourse constituted a central dimension of crises, because it allowed a danger, a threat, or a crisis to be defined, and also a departure from routine procedures to be justified to the public. The importance of identifying the protagonists able to impose their definition of situations to declare the start and end of situations of rupture is therefore clear. In this regard, a comparison of the role of the army in Egypt, Pakistan, and Latin America could prove particularly heuristic insofar as it would likely reveal similar long-term army strategies to gain autonomy from political control. Becoming economic actors, controlling the discourse of national security, and forming social coalitions – with sectors of the state apparatus, the media, and political groups – are all processes that have proved to be successful for the Egyptian, Pakistani, [93] and Chilean armies at different times.



45• 1908: “Young Turk Revolution”; establishment of constitutional monarchy.

46• 1913: Coup d’état by the Committee of Union and Progress.

47• 1919: Beginning of the War of Independence.

48• 1922: Victory of the Kemalist armies.

49• 1923: Treaty of Lausanne and proclamation of the Republic.

50• 1946: Multiparty system authorized.

51• 1950: Democrat Party election victory. First political changeover.

52• 1952: Turkey joins NATO.

53• 27 May 1960: Military coup and seizure of power by the National Unity Committee (Millî Birlik Komitesi) comprising officers involved in the coup.

54• 3 January 1961: Creation of the Mutual Assistance Institution of the Army (Ordu Yardımlaşma Kurumu, OYAK), a military pension fund.

55• 9 July 1961: Ratification of the new constitution, which was drafted at the MBK’s behest. Implementation of the National Security Council (Milli Güvenlik Kurulu, MGK).

56• 12 March 1971: Military coup.

57• 1971-1973: National unity governments. Amendment of the constitution orchestrated by the general staff.

58• 26 July 1972: Creation of the Supreme Military Council (Yüksek Askerî Şura).

59• 12 September 1980: Military coup. Political parties, trade unions, and associations outlawed. Implementation of measures to liberalize the Turkish economy.

60• 18 October 1982: Entry into force of the new constitution prepared by the military.

61• 1984: Beginning of the war against the PKK.

62• 28 February 1997: So-called “postmodern” military coup.

63• 16 January 1998: Dissolution of the Islamic-conservative Welfare Party (Refah Partisi) by the Constitutional Court.

64• June 2001: Dissolution of the Islamic-conservative Virtue Party (Fazilet Partisi) by the Constitutional Court.

65• 3 November 2002: Parliamentary elections. Victory of the Justice and Development Party (AKP).

66• 2002-2004: Ratification by parliament of the “European legislative harmonization batches” leading to the civilianization of the MGK, the recognition of the supremacy of international agreements over domestic law with regard to human rights, the dissolution of state security courts, and the authorization of regional dialects and languages on television and radio.

67• 2005: Opening of EU accession negotiations.

68• April 2007: Political crisis over the election of the president of the Republic. Mobilization of national-sovereignist networks and invalidation of the election.

69• 22 July 2007: Early parliamentary elections. AKP victory.

70• Wednesday, 29 August 2007: Election of AKP candidate Abdullah Gül to the position of president of the Republic of Turkey.

71• July 2008: The Constitutional Court rules against shutting down the AKP.

72• October 2008: Beginning of legal proceedings against the military, including the Ergenekon trial.

73• 12 June 2011: Parliamentary elections. AKP victory.

74• August 2014: Recep Tayyip Erdoğan elected to the post of president of the Republic of Turkey.


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    Anouck Gabriela Corte-Real Pinto, “La domination militaire par les dons”, in Marc Aymes, Benjamin Gourisse, and Élise Massicard (eds), L’art de l’État. Arrangements de l’action publique en Turquie de la fin de l’Empire ottoman à nos jours (Paris: Karthala, 2014), 293-316.
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    Ümit Cizre, “The Justice and Development Party and the military: recreating the past after reforming it?”, in Ümit Cizre (ed.), Secular and Islamic Politics in Turkey: The Making of the Justice and Development Party (Abingdon: Routledge, 2008), 132-71; Doğan Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi [The influence of military interventions on the army] (Istanbul: İletişim Yayınları, 2009 [1st edn 2002); Anouck Gabriela Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière: redéploiement économique du pouvoir militaire dans la Turquie néolibérale”, doctoral thesis in political science, Paris, Sciences Po, 2012.
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    The memoirs of several officers who were involved in the coup d’état of 27 May 1960 enabled us to piece together the reasoning behind the putschists’ actions. See Orhan Erkanlı, Anılar… Sorunlar… Sorumlular [Memoirs… Questions… Responsibilities] (Istanbul: Baha Matbaası, 1972); Haydar Tunçkanat, 27 Mayıs 1960 Devrimi (Diktadan Demokrasiye) [The 1960 Revolution (from diktat to democracy)] (Işhanı: Çağlayan Yayınevi, 1996); Numan Esin, Devrim ve Demokrasi. Bir 27 mayısçının anıları [Revolution and democracy: the memoirs of a man of May 27] (Istanbul: Doğan Kitap, 2005).
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    W. Hale, “The Turkish army in politics…”, 56-7. See also Dankwart A. Rustow, “The army and the founding of the Turkish Republic”, World Politics 11(4), 1959, 513-52 (550).
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    W. Hale, “The Turkish army in politics…”, 35.
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    Feroz Ahmad, The Making of Modern Turkey (1960-1971) (London: Routledge, 1993), 123.
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    Ü. Özdağ, Menderes Döneminde Ordu-Siyaset İlişkileri ve 27 Mayıs İhtilali.
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    T. Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı…, 238 and 241.
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    T. Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı…, 64. In 1946, Fevzi Çakmak was also the DP candidate for the presidency of the Republic, before leaving the party to participate in the founding of the Nation Party (Millet Partisi).
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    “This is what one can say about relations between the CHP and the army: the army and particularly its lowest ranks dropped the CHP to join the DP” (D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 63).
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    Benjamin Gourisse, “Une transformation non consensuelle du jeu politique: autorisation du multipartisme et alternance politique en Turquie (1945-1950)”, Revue française de science politique, 65(3), 2015, 429-49.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 70; T. Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı…, 132.
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    In real terms, national revenue increased by 38.9% between 1950 and 1953. D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 85.
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    T. Demirel, Türkiye’nin Uzun On Yılı…, 254.
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    The works of Alfred Stepan on the political initiatives of the military in Brazil show how, when a military junta is in power, tensions between what he calls the “military officers of the government” and the “military officers of institution” (who have command positions in the army but no positions in the junta) become a structuring element of the political life of the military regime then in place (Alfred Stepan, The Military in Politics: Changing Patterns in Brazil (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2015); and Rethinking Military Politics. Brazil and the Southern Cone (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1988).
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    L. Ünsaldı, Le militaire et la politique en Turquie, 82.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 373. For the coup plotters, the idea was not only to allow the promotion of some young officers, but also to reduce the number of generals. Dündar Seyhan, a member of the cleansing commission (tasfiye komisyonu) that was set up, compared the army to “a puny child with a skinny body and a huge head”, Dündar Seyhan, Gölgedeki Adam [The Man in the Shadow] (Istanbul: Nurettin Uycan Matbaası, 1966), 101. For Orhan Erkanlı, a member of the MBK before being ousted from it in November 1960, the Turkish army resembled “a Mexican army… At the Ministry of Defense, the colonels, and even the generals, occupied functions that would have been assigned to secretaries in any civil office” (O. Erkanli, Anılar…, 39).
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 377.
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    According to Orhan Erkanlı, “Disagreements erupted from the first weeks. A proportion of the members, whose characters had been shaped by clandestine activities and principles, wanted to give May 27 a revolutionary meaning. But, between them, there was no social or political agreement” (O. Erkanli, Anılar…, 143).
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    Sinan Onuş, Parola/İnkılap27 Mayıs’ı Yapanlar Anlatıyor [Password/Revolution – The May 27 Protagonists Explain] (Istanbul: Kaynak, 2003), 90-1.
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    During the 1920 and 1930s, legal proceedings were regularly brought against officers or cadets accused of clandestine political activities and Communist propaganda in the army (S. Onuş, Parola/İnkılap, 41).
  • [37]
    Cevdet Sunay was president of the Republic from 1966 to 1973 (D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, respectively 61, 101, and 501-5).
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 101.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 293.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 300.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 334.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 335.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 332.
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    According to Ahmet Topaloğlu, the defense minister during the passage of the law: “I was the only civilian at the Ministry of Defense… The advisor was a general. We were unable to set up an alternative civil type of organization. In many countries, all these tasks (the military budget and so forth) were the responsibility of expert civilian personnel…” (D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 347).
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 368.
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    Ümit Kardaş, “The military judiciary,” in Ümit Cizre (ed.), Almanach Turkey 2005. Democratic Oversight and Reform of the Security Sector (Istanbul: Tesev-DCAF, 2005), 59-67.
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    A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 430.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 381.
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    D. Akyaz, Askerî Müdahalelerin Orduya Etkisi, 353.
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    In the 1970s and 1980s, the Supreme Military Council above all set about eliminating officers who were suspected of having ties with the radical left. From the beginning of the 1990s, officers suspected of Islamist positions were its target.
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    Article 111 of the 196 Constitution; see (consulted 7 March 2014).
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    The evolution of relations between political and military sectors in Turkey from the 1960s can be likened to that observed in the People’s Republic of China from the end of the 1970s, when a system of conditional obedience by the military to governments was established. James Mulvenon observes that the support that the military has given to political personnel after that time has been dependent on respect for the institutional autonomy of the army and the room for maneuver available to the military in defining foreign and armament policy. James Mulvenon, “Straining against the yoke? Civil-military relations in China after the seventeenth Party Congress”, in Cheng Li (ed.), China’s Changing Political Landscape. Prospects for Democracy (Washington: Brookings Institution Press 2008), 267-82.
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    Ahmet İnsel compares the monthly meetings of the MGK to a “permanent coup d’état” (A. İnsel, “‘Cet État n’est pas sans propriétaires!’…”).
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    G. Dorronsoro (ed.), La Turquie conteste.
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    Gülay Günlük-Şenesen, “Budgetary trade-offs of security expenditures in Turkey”, Defence and Peace Economics, 13(5), 2002, 385-403; Gülay Günlük-Şenesen, Türkiye’de savunma harcamaları ve ekonomik etkileri, 1980-2001 [Turkey’s defense spending and its economic effects, 1980-2001] (Istanbul: TESEV, 2002); Ömer Fikret Güray, Towards Establishing the Defence Industry: A Case Study in Turkey (Istanbul: Boğaziçi University Library, 1988).
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    Ahmet İnsel, Ali Bayramoğlu, Bir Zümre, bir parti. Türkiye’de Ordu [A social group and a party: the army in Turkey] (Istanbul: Birikim Yayınları, 2004).
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    “Milli Birlik Komitesi Direktifi. Milli Komitesi’nin Memleket Meseleri Hakkinda Temel Görüşleri” [The directive of the National Unity Committee: Positions of the national committee on the nation’s problems], Resmi Gazete [Official Journal], 10605, 16 September 1969.
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    Ahmet İnsel, “Bir toplumsal sınıf olarak türk silahlı kuvvetleri” [The Turkish armed forces as a social class], in A. İnsel, A. Bayramoğlu, Bir Zümre, bir parti…, 170.
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    A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 80-1. Corte-Real Pinto notes that “this civil, military, public, and private synthesis was not specific to the TSKMEV, since in 2007 it could be seen in at least six other foundations: TSK Mensupları Eğitim Vakfı, TSK Dayanışma Vakfı, TSK Elele Vakfı, TSK Sağlık Vakfı, TSK Eğitim Vakfı, and even TSK Güçlendirme Vakfı, the very powerful foundation focused on strengthening the defense industry, as well as in certain so-called “private” associations and institutions such as Türk Hava Kurumu (THK)” (A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 136).
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    According to Article 6 of Law 3328 of 7 November 1985, which established the extra-budgetary fund for the defense industry (SSDF) “the Executive Committee of the Secretariat for the Defense Industry is in charge of seeking opportunities to set up production centers, with the help of the public and private sectors and with the contribution of capital and foreign technology”.
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    This allowed, for example, the effects of the financial crises experienced by the country in the 1990s and the first decade of the twenty-first century to be softened. See A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 167.
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    A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 390-1.
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    Fırat Demir, “A political economy analysis of the Turkish military’s split personality: the patriarchal master or crony capitalist?”. in Tamer Çetin and Feridun Yilmaz (eds), Understanding the Process of Economic Change in Turkey: An Institutional Approach (New York: Nova Science Publishers, 2009), 159-81.
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    The ASAM (Avrasya Stratejik Araştırmalar Merkezi, Eurasian Strategies Research Center) think tank established in 1999 included retired diplomats and generals. It closed in 2008. Through regularly publishing strategic notes on the country’s foreign policy and on domestic policy issues, the former generals were able to dominate political debate.
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    Numan Esin, who was excluded from the National Unity Committee on 13 November 1960, along with thirteen other members of the junta, mentions in his memoirs that the main objective of the intervention of 12 March 1971 was to change the internal power relations in the army. See N. Esin, Devrim ve Demokrasi. Bir 27 mayısçının anıları, 329.
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    Ü. Cizre, “Demythologizing the national security concept…”.
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    Étienne Copeaux, Espaces et temps de la nation turque. Analyse d’une historiographie nationaliste, 1931-1993 (Paris: CNRS éditions, 1997).
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    Walter L. Adamson, Hegemony and Revolution: A Study of Antonio Gramsci’s Political and Cultural Theory (Berkeley: University of California Press 1980), 141.
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    G. Dorronsoro, “Introduction: mobilisations et régime sécuritaire”, in G. Dorronsoro (ed.), La Turquie conteste…, 13-23.
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    G. Dorronsoro, “Introduction: mobilisations et régime sécuritaire”.
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    D. Seyhan, Gölgedeki Adam, 112-16.
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    Ü. Cizre, AP-Ordu İlişkileri…, 28.
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    Ü. Cizre, AP-Ordu İlişkileri…, 74.
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    B. Gourisse, La violence politique en Turquie…, 303-4.
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    On this point, see G. Dorronsoro (ed.), La Turquie conteste…; and “Réflexions sur la causalité d’un manque: pourquoi y a-t-il si peu de mobilisations en Turquie?”, CERI, September 2001,
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    Antonio Gramsci, “L.V.N.”, Notebook XXI (29), Cahiers de prison. Volume V: Notebooks 19-29 (Paris: Gallimard, 1992 [1st Italian edn 1935]), 197-205.
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    A. G. Corte-Real Pinto, “Armée sans frontière…”, 425.
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    Ü. Cizre, “The Justice and Development Party and the military…”, 148; and “2004’te Iki Darbe Atlatmısız”, Nokta, 22, 29 March/4 April 2007, 10-39.
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    The president of the Union of Turkish Youth, Adnan Türkan, was also the editor in chief of Ulusal Kanal, the television channel of the party of the Workers’ Party (İşci Partisi). He was involved in the trial of the Ergenekon network and arrested for participating in the so-called Balyoz coup plot.
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    Benjamin Gourisse, “Militer à l’İşçi Partisi”, DEA dissertation, Paris, Université Paris, I-Panthéon Sorbonne.
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    The idea of a need for the military to oversee politics, advanced by the general staff following the coup d’état of 12 September 1980, echoes Alain Rouquié’s comments on Latin America. He has shown how the military there developed a belief in collective responsibility in the face of the abuse and pressure that the state was subjected to from some social groups and, in particular, political parties. Alain Rouquié, Pouvoir militaire et société politique en République argentine (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1978); and L’État militaire en Amérique latine (Paris: Seuil, 1982).
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    Ü. Cizre, “The Justice and Development Party and the military…”, 132.
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    Ali Bayramoğlu, Ahmet İnsel, Almanac Turkey 2006-2008: Security Sector and Democratic Oversight (Istanbul: Tesev, 2010).
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    Lars Haugom, The Turkish Armed Forces in Politics (Oslo: Norwegian Institute for Defence Studies 2012).
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    Ahmet İnsel, La nouvelle Turquie d’Ergogan. Du rêve démocratique à la dérive autoritaire (Paris: La Découverte, 2015), 111.
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    Gilles Dorronsoro and Benjamin Gourisse, “Une clé de lecture du politique en Turquie: les rapports État-partis”, Politix, 107, 2015, 195-218.
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    Pierre Bourdieu, Homo Academicus (Paris: Minuit, 1984).
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    P. Bourdieu, Homo Academicus, 210-11.
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    Michel Dobry, Sociologie des crises politiques (Paris: Presses de Sciences Po, 1986), 13.
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    For an attempt in this regard, see Adam Baczko, Gilles Dorronsoro, and Arthur Quesnay, “Mobilisations par délibération et crise polarisante: les protestations pacifiques en Syrie (2011)”, Revue française de science politique, 63(5), 2013, 815-39.
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    G. Dorronsoro and B. Gourisse, “Une clé de lecture du politique en Turquie…”. During the 1970s, while participating in various coalition governments until the military intervention of 12 September 1980, the National Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi) drew on the positions that it had access to in the state apparatus in order to carry out violent activities and enact a destabilization strategy from which it hoped to emerge in a strengthened position. See B. Gourisse, La violence politique en Turquie….
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    On the way in which, for example, the Pakistani army’s economic corporatism allowed it to gain enduring autonomy from civilian governments, see Amélie Blom, “‘Qui a le bâton, a le buffle’: le corporatisme économique de l’armée pakistanaise”, Questions de recherche du CERI, 16, December 2005,

Until the 2000s, the army was constantly involved in the political life of the Republic of Turkey. To explain this, this article shows that the military interventions, far from responding to crises within the political sector, were the result of both internal army dynamics and coalitions of which the army was the backbone. This dual dynamics of empowering the military institution and intervening in politics via coalition formation highlights the mechanisms that allow an institutional actor to manufacture crises and thus to occupy the heart of the political arena.

Gilles Dorronsoro
A professor of political science at Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne (and also at the Institut universitaire de France), Gilles Dorronsoro works on crisis situations (Afghanistan, Turkey’s Kurdish regions, and Syria). He is co-founder of the European Journal of Turkish Studies ( His publications include La Turquie conteste. Mobilisations sociales et régime sécuritaire (Paris: Éditions du CNRS, 2005), which he edited (Université Paris I-Panthéon Sorbonne, 14 rue Cujas, 75005 Paris.
Benjamin Gourisse
Benjamin Gourisse is an associate professor of political science at Université Paris-Dauphine and a member of the Interdisciplinary Social Sciences Research Institute (IRISSO – UMR CNRS 7170). He is the author of La violence politique en Turquie. L’État en jeu (1975-1980) (Paris: Karthala, 2014) (Recherches internationales), and he edited (with Marc Aymes and Élise Massicard) L’art de l’État. Arrangements de l’action publique en Turquie de la fin de l’Empire ottoman à nos jours (Paris: Karthala, 2014) (IRISSO, Université Paris-Dauphine, Place du Maréchal de Lattre de Tassigny, 75775 Paris cedex 16.
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