International affairs columnist Jonathan Manthorpe examines the contentious roles of the military and Islamists in the desperate quest by Turkey’s prime minister to cling to political power. Excerpt:
Turkey’s Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan has spent a decade trying to curb the political power of the country’s military, but now there are early indications he wants the support of the generals as he confronts the more serious threat of vengeance by his former Islamist allies.
Erdogan is turning to the military for support as he fights for his political life against the supporters of popular Muslim cleric, Fethullah Gulen.
Since coming to power in Turkey in 2002, Erdogan has aided Gulenists to grab key positions in the police and judiciary. This was all part of his policy of Islamisation of Turkey, whose 1924 constitution defines the country as a secular republic, with the military having tacit authority to block any efforts to create a religious state.
It will be astonishing if Erdogan can survive this crisis, however. His ruling Justice and Development Party, known by its Turkish initials AKP, is being torn apart as the Gulenists in the judiciary and police launch corruption investigations and prosecutions of party members and their families.
In the last decade Erdogan has overseen vigorous advances in the Turkish economy and the re-emergence of Ankara as a major influence in the politics of the Middle East, rivaling the authority of Iran, Egypt and Saudi Arabia.
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