There’s no longer plenty time left before what could grow to be Turkey’s most consequential elections. On June 24, approximately 60 million human beings are expected to vote in what ought to cause a regime alternate. All applicants, notably President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, have stepped up their campaigns.
But the 3 one-of-a-kinds “hats” Erdogan wears in his campaign have made Turkey’s civilian-military members of the family — already strained by way of the 2016 tried coup — extra fragile.
As Erdogan campaigns throughout the united states of America, he is representing the commander in the leader of the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) on behalf of the Turkish parliament. He is the president of Turkey, however additionally a political birthday party chief stumping for re-election. In towns he visits, he is accorded presidential protocol. That being the case, generals serving in those places are required to attend his campaign activities.
On June 2, Erdogan — because the leader of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — spoke at a dinner at Malatya and centered Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate for the Republican People’s Party. Erdogan said, “You can entrust your save to an apprentice. You can not entrust Turkey to political apprentices. We can in no way entrust u. S. To the ones who’ve had no fulfillment, no enjoy in politics. My brothers, there is not anything that those who’ve lost each contest they entered can deliver to themselves and to this united states of America.”
Among the ones gleefully applauding Erdogan for his words, approximately “apprentices” changed into Lt. Gen. Ismail Metin Temel, the commander of the Second Army, in his complete uniform. Photos of the event show Temel making no attempt to hide his grin while applauding Erdogan’s sarcasm about Ince.
Temel, classified as the “warrior standard” within the TSK, is understood for his stern anti-US/anti-West views. He maximum these days commanded Operation Olive Branch (January-March 2018), which the TSK achieved with the Free Syrian Army. That explains his reputation with the conservative and nationalist segments of the AKP voter base.
Ince reacted sharply to the images of Temel smiling at Erdogan’s comments.
“For the first time in the republic’s records, a preferred is applauding Erdogan [when he] wasn’t talking approximately u. S. A ., our flag and our kingdom. Instead, he’s applauding Erdogan who turned into criticizing me,” Ince said at a news conference as he campaigned in Yalova. “He could be the primary well-known I will retire, and [I will] do away with his epaulets on Aug. 30,” which is the conventional date for TSK promotions, retirements, and assignments.
“Are you a well-known of the Turkish army or a provincial chief of the AKP?” Ince asked. “All should realize their limits, observe policies, with laws and the constitution. A trendy can’t try this. I gained’t allow him to do it; you may see.”
In next speeches, Ince ratcheted up his declarations of the way he’ll retire Temel.
This is how Temel’s smile as he applauded Erdogan has become one of the most outstanding subjects of the campaign. Actually, the military’s interference in politics began long before the general’s applause. In April, when it becomes extensively expected that former President Abdullah Gul would possibly run for the presidency this yr, he changed into a visit with the aid of Chief of General Staff Hulusi Akar, a youth buddy of Gul’s, and Erdogan’s lead adviser, Ibrahim Kalin, a good way to dissuade him.
This nighttime goes to — through an army helicopter that landed in the outdoor of Gul’s Istanbul residence — indicates how difficult to understand the road demarcating politics and army paperwork has to turn out to be in post-putsch Turkey.
According to the Internal Service Act — widely taken into consideration the TSK gospel — members of the militia are forbidden to sign up for political parties or associations, participate in political demonstrations and conferences, provide political speeches, make statements or write articles. Even worse, doing any of these things whilst in uniform is a severe disciplinary offense punishable by way of one to 5 years in prison, in step with the Military Penal Code.
Since the beginning of the 1900s, Turkish political records has been complete with examples of the way pricey it is been for the navy and the country whilst the navy will become politicized. Despite the TSK’s occasional involvement in coup tries, it is nonetheless viable to claim that the TSK continues strong principles of staying far away from every day political polemics and no longer becoming a subject of such drama. Now, each person’s arguing about whether Temel’s applause of Erdogan turned into a political gesture: Should we condone Temel’s applause because Erdogan is commander in chief and the cutting-edge president, or condemn it due to the fact Erdogan changed into talking as a frontrunner of a political celebration running for president?
Pro-AKP reporters and academics emphasize that Temel, who has commanded operations against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and most recently led Operation Olive Branch, is a countrywide hero, that his applause changed into flawlessly every day and that there are no troubles in civilian-military family members. Pro-AKP media constantly word that Temel is now commander of Turkish army operations in Iraq.
The identical media are actually on a quest to introduce Temel as the officer who will command the pending anti-PKK operation in Iraq’s Qandil Mountains. They criticize the opposition’s presidential candidate, Ince, for traumatic Temel’s dishonorable discharge. Columnist Taha Akyol of the every day Hurriyet (which became currently sold by way of a pro-AKP media baron) wrote that Temel needs to show extra care in the destiny.
The competition stresses that the navy can’t paintings to make sure a political birthday party’s fulfillment and insists that Erdogan’s speech become election propaganda and now not approximately countrywide defense or any related navy situation. Opposition leaders also ask what would have come about if another general had attended, in uniform, a dinner honoring Ince.
What’s apparent is that within the time left earlier than the elections, civilian-navy members of the family can be a key polemical problem within the united states of America’s increasingly heated politics. These debates will drag soldiers into political quarrels and weaken the family members, no matter efforts to repair them for the reason that 2016 failed army uprising.
Do those developments imply the TSK has ended up the military of Erdogan? It is probably too early to mention, but the June 24 elections may additionally nicely provide the answer.
Found in: TURKEY ELECTIONS
Metin Gurcan is a columnist for Al-Monitor’s Turkey Pulse. He served in Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, and Iraq as a Turkish navy adviser from 2002 to 2008. After resigning from the military, he became an Istanbul-based unbiased protection analyst. Gurcan acquired his Ph.D. in 2016 with a dissertation on changes in the Turkish army over the preceding decade. He has posted appreciably in Turkish and overseas instructional journals, and his ebook “What Went Wrong in Afghanistan: Understanding Counterinsurgency in Tribalized, Rural, Muslim Environments” turned into published in August 2016. On Twitter: @Metin4020