Maybe he staged his own coup. Maybe he intentionally provoked his opponents into making a rush move. Maybe he knew what was coming but didnâ€™t want to stop it. Or maybe the official story is correct.
Whatever the case, Turkeyâ€™s President Erdogan has not wasted the Allah-given opportunity to use the failed coup as an excuse to strengthen his grip on power.
As Glenn Reynolds summarised the post-coup crackdown:
In the wake of that event, Erdogan has rounded up at least 6,000 soldiers and 3,000 judges and legal officials since the coup attempt. Itâ€™s very doubtful that they were involved in the coup (if that many had been involved, it might have succeeded). Heâ€™s also fired over 15,000 educators, who had nothing to do with the coup. Tens of thousands have been sacked or jailed. Turkish academics traveling abroad have been ordered to return home. The crackdown toll is now over 50,000.
To this extensive list one may add several other developments:
- Declared a three-month state of emergency
- Suspended parts of the European Convention on Human Rights
- Mooted the reintroduction of the death penalty
Amnesty International also reports, â€œThe authorities arbitrarily blocked access to more than 20 news websites in the days following the coup attempt. Yesterday it was widely reported that the government revoked the licenses of 25 media houses in the country. In addition, 34 individual journalists have had their press cards cancelled and at least one journalist has had an arrest warrant issued against her for her coverage of the attempted coup.â€
Consolidating power at home and eliminating any independent centres of power and accountability, Erdogan is continuing his drive to make Turkey a major regional power, most recently getting an agreement with Azerbaijan to establish a military base on its territory.
Some events, while tragic, have a clarifying power. Itâ€™s apparent now that Turkey will not be in a position to pursue the EU membership. AÂ Middle Eastern Muslim stateÂ with a population greater than any European country was always going to be a tough fit for Europe, but it was arguable that while Turkey was a staunch NATO ally and an open democracy, an embrace by the European institutions would strengthen the hand of secularists and modernisers. This argument no longer stands. Turkey is now in the hands of an Islamist would-be authoritarian and the majority of the population seems to be fine with that. This is a tragedy for the region as well as the millions of decent, secular Turks who always wanted to live in a normal modern country.