Even before the attempted coup, Turkey was no longer a democracy according to political scientist Dr Roy Karadag. He told EURACTIV’s partner WirtschaftsWoche what Erdoğan has planned for Turkey next and why the EU refugee deal hangs in the balance.
Dr Roy Karadag is a postdoctoral researcher at the University of Bremen.
Karadag spoke to WirtschaftsWoche’s Marc Etzold.
Erdoğan is in the midst of cleaning up after the coup attempt. How should Germany and the wider EU act now?
The Europeans have reacted by issuing strong warnings. And I’m afraid that little else is possible. Especially since a harder tact and criticism of civil society doesn’t seem to help.
The German government has threatened to end Turkey’s EU accession talks if it reintroduces the death penalty…
Yes, this is where both Berlin and Brussels have to draw a line in the sand. But we shouldn’t kid ourselves: even before the attempted coup, Ankara and Brussels were not on the same page. A Turkey where journalists, activists and artists are harassed and arrested does not belong in the EU. Nevertheless, negotiations were not broken off, because they are the EU’s only trump card.
How likely is an actual reintroduction of capital punishment?
I can’t comment on that, but the threat of it is enough to help Erdoğan enormously. He will now fan the flames as he continues to seek revenge for his party’s followers. If, after a long debate on the issue, Erdoğan ultimately backs down, he will be able to present himself as the merciful redeemer.
If the EU cancels Turkey’s accession talks, then is that it for the refugee deal?
It is quite possible that at least some in Ankara would call the agreement into question. In any case, Turkey will insist that its controversial terror laws remain in place, as they are.
The EU wants to grant visa liberalisation, but only once those laws are scaled back.
Yes, that’s a difficult ask. Erdoğan will insist on maintaining the laws because of the coup attempt.
Is Turkey no longer a democracy?
Turkey fulfils all of the criteria of a so-called tyranny of the masses. That means that policy is formulated by the majority of the majority. Democratic rights that are meant to safeguard the minority, like freedom of speech, religion, assembly and the press, are no longer afforded. Turkey has already moved away from being a democracy.
At the moment, arbitrary arrests of judges, police officers and soldiers have been carried out. What is Erdoğan’s plan now?
He wants to show that no one is safe from the wrath of his regime and that no one can go against his party or his government.
Were they surprised by the coup attempt?
The political leadership would have known that there was a certain amount of dissatisfaction. From a tactical point of view, it made sense for them to let the coup play out, so the government could see who supported it. Whether the government and the ruling party knew before how close to the brink they would come, only they know.
Some say the coup was predictable. Others say it came out of the blue. What’s your take?
In 2011, many leaders of the country’s General Staff asked for their retirement. Since then, the military appears to have been de-powered politically. Nevertheless, as proved by Friday’s events, there was still dissatisfaction among the armed forces. So to that extent, both are true. The failed putsch for sure shows that the military will not be able to exercise any political power now.
Many Turks went out into the streets and protested against the coup. Were they supporting democracy or Erdoğan?
For the party faithful, those things are one and the same. But it wasn’t just Erdoğan loyalists out on Friday night, there were also supporters of the opposition. Whatever their motivation was, Erdoğan will now use it as a symbolic resource going forward, against what he considers to be undemocratic forces.
What’s Erdoğan’s end goal?
He wants to use this momentum to rebuild Turkey as a presidential system. In the next few weeks or months, he will probably hold a referendum on it. If Turkish citizens vote yes with a strong enough majority, then the opposition will come under massive pressure to submit to the will of the people and support the collective interest.
And if the opposition resists?
Then Erdoğan’s party will brand them as traitors.
Does the coup attempt have the chance to actually strengthen democracy?
Over the last year, Erdoğan has significantly curtailed the rights of the opposition. If he now reaches out to the opposition and restores their rights, then democracy does stand a chance of being strengthened. But I don’t see any chance of Erdoğan doing that.