Turkey History Part VI
On August 5, 2013, the verdicts were passed in the proceedings against 275 defendants of the ultra-nationalist group Ergenekon, who were accused of overturning plans. The court imposed long prison sentences, for example the former chief of staff Ilker Başbuğ (* 1943) was sentenced to life imprisonment, but was released again in March 2014. On April 21, 2016, the highest Turkish Court of Appeal overturned the verdict as there was no evidence of a coup conspiracy.
After a bribery scandal involving illegal building permits and undermined sanctions against Iran, in which senior politicians were involved, Erdoğan reshuffled the cabinet in December 2013. In addition, numerous police officers investigating the corruption case were removed from their posts. Erdoğan viewed the investigation as a conspiracy against him and his government. Thousands of demonstrators in several cities called on the prime minister to resign. Observers interpreted the events as signs of a power struggle between Erdoğan’s camp and the supporters of the US-based Islamic preacher F. Gülen , a former ally of Erdoğan. Erdoğan accused the Gülen movement of infiltrating state structures. Alleged recordings of telephone conversations between the Prime Minister and his son published on YouTube as evidence of involvement in corruption were referred to as Mondays by Erdoğan in February 2014. The executive reacted in the following period by blocking YouTube and Twitter. Following a ruling by the Constitutional Court, the Twitter block had to be lifted at the beginning of April 2014. Despite an identical judgment, YouTube was only made accessible again in early June 2014.
The government also received criticism from trade unions and the opposition after the Soma mining disaster in May 2014, the worst mine disaster in Turkish history with 301 deaths. Protest rallies took place again in several cities. Nonetheless, Erdoğan’s political course continued to be supported by large sections of the population. On August 10, 2014, he was able to clearly win the first direct election for the presidency of Turkey in the first ballot with 51.8% of the votes. 38.4% went to the candidate Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu (* 1941), supported by the CHP and MHP. Selahattin Demirtaş (* 1973), the co-chairman of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which was founded in 2012 and was mainly supported by the pro-Kurdish and left-wing opposition movement, achieved a respectable success with 9.8% of the vote.
After Erdoğan took office on August 28, 2014, he was succeeded by the previous Foreign Minister A. Davutoğlu as Prime Minister. On August 27 was Davutoğlu already been elected as the new ACP-chairman. Erdoğan campaigned despite beingconstitutionally obliged to be non-partisanIn the run-up to the parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7th, 2015, massively for the AKP and the introduction of a presidential system with extended powers for the head of state. The election campaign was overshadowed by numerous acts of violence. In the elections, the ruling AKP clearly missed the desired two-thirds majority. With 40.9% of the votes and 258 seats, it even lost the absolute majority for the first time. The second strongest party remained the CHP with 25% of the vote and 132 seats. The nationalist MHP got 16.3% of the vote and 80 seats. The HDP also won 80 seats, with a 13.1% gain immediately overcoming the 10% blocking clause. Since the formation of a permanent government failed, new elections were scheduled for November 1, 2015.
On October 10, 2015, 103 people were killed in a terrorist attack on a peace demonstration in Ankara, for which the authorities blamed the terrorist organization Islamic State.
In new elections on November 1, 2015, the AKP was able to increase its share of the vote compared to June from 40.9 to 49.5%. With 317 seats, she again won an absolute majority of the seats in the National Assembly. The CHP won 134, the HDP 59 and the MHP 40 seats. A. Davutoğlu formed a new cabinet that was presented on November 24, 2015. He was succeeded in May 2016 by B. Yıldırım , a loyal follower of Erdoğan.
On May 20, 2016, 376 of 550 MPs voted for a temporary constitutional amendment that would suspend the previously applicable immunity rule for MPs suspected of having committed a criminal offense. The constitutional amendment affected 138 MPs, including 50 from the Kurdish HDP, who were mainly accused of violating anti-terrorist laws.
On July 15, 2016, parts of the army rose against President Erdoğan’s government. The government-loyal military and police units were able to crush the survey the following day. Large sections of the population also opposed the coup plotters and showed solidarity with the government in nationwide demonstrations. The failed coup attempt resulted in over 260 deaths and over 1,400 injured. Erdoğan explained to F. Gülento the person responsible for the coup attempt, which this denied. On July 16, 2016, the government began a large-scale purge of the military, the judiciary and the administration. Tens of thousands of civil servants allegedly affiliated with the Gülen movement have been arrested or suspended from their duties. On July 20, 2016, President Erdoğan announced the imposition of a state of emergency (approved by Parliament on July 21, 2016), which lasted until July 2017. Fore more information about Turkey and Middle East, please visit Relationshipsplus.
In January 2017, parliament voted with the necessary three-fifths majority in favor of a constitutional amendment promoted by Erdoğan to introduce a presidential system. In a referendum on April 16, 2017, the population approved the constitutional amendment with 51.4% of the vote, according to the electoral commission. Opposition representatives criticized irregularities in the voting and raised allegations of manipulation because of the admission of unofficial stamped ballot papers. The opposition CHP submitted a motion to the electoral commission to cancel the referendum, but the commission rejected the motion.
The threat posed by terrorism of Islamist or radical Kurdish origins remained a main problem for internal security in 2016. In 2016, five serious attacks were carried out in Istanbul alone. Also Ankara has several terrorist acts the scene. On December 19, 2016, the Russian ambassador was assassinated there.
In the early presidential elections on June 24, 2018, Erdoğan achieved an absolute majority in the first ballot with 52.59%, ahead of Muharrem İnce (* 1964), who won 30.64% of the vote. According to the constitutional amendment that came into force in 2018, Erdoğan is now head of state and head of government in one person. In the parliamentary elections held at the same time, the AKP, together with its alliance partner MHP, was able to defend its majority in parliament (600 seats) with 344 seats, but suffered a considerable loss of votes. The nation’s opposition alliance around the CHP won 189 seats, the HDP 67 seats.
In the local elections on March 31, 2019, mayors, members of local parliaments and municipal administrators were elected. The AKP gained a majority nationwide, but lost the capital Ankara and, among other cities, Istanbul. When the opposition candidate, Ekrem İmamoğlu (CHP), won 13,000 votes ahead of the AKP candidate in the strategically most important metropolis, the AKP applied for the election to be annulled. The High Election Committee bowed to pressure from the AKP in May and ordered a re-election for June 23, 2019. The reason is that numerous election workers were not civil servants and some of them were close to the Gülen movement. The new elections decided İmamoğlu with 802,000 votes ahead of their own. Since İmamoğlu won, although he was ignored by most of the media in the election campaign and personally defamed by Erdoğan , observers viewed his victory as a turning away from the majority of Istanbul’s population from the nationalist populism of the AKP and turning to a conciliatory course for the divided society.
Also in June 2019, a court sentenced 17 former top military officials to life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the government in the 2016 coup attempt.