What triggered the renewed confrontation between the military command and Prime Minister Erdogan was his insistence, alongside President Abdullah Gul, in the letter of the law, which does not allow it to promote military officials during detention. More than 100 military officers including top-ranking generals have been detained as part of a series of investigations into alleged coup plots. After the military leaders stepped down last week, Prime Minister Erdogan assembled the Supreme Military Council on Monday, and even though 4 of the 16 members were missing, the governing AKP maintained a business-as-usual attitude minimizing the fallout from the conflict.
The meetings with military leaders will continue until Thursday. They are expected to conclude with the former commander of the gendarmerie, Necdet Ozel, officially appointed as general chief of the armed forces.
The judicial situation
There are serious problems, however, regarding due process in the pending trials against journalists, civil society activists, and military officers. The AKP has put its support behind a series of aggressive and unprecedented investigations that claim to be pursuing a broad, multifaceted coup conspiracy that includes not just the military but also journalists and civil society activists who stand to be charged with disseminating propaganda in support of terrorist groups. In this dragnet the lines between fact, falsehood, and downright fantasy are becoming increasingly blurred. The judicial processes are lumbering and opaque, with files running into the thousands of pages and littered with documents of suspicious providence and veracity. Detention periods can last months, even years, before a judge reviews that case and dismisses it. And it doesn't help that the prosecutors are still using the same illiberal legal code that was once used as a weapon against the now-ruling AKP.
President Gul stated last week that he does not want the crisis to go any further. He acknowledged that the events "of course were extraordinary, but now everything is continuing its course as usual." But this quest for normalcy comes with an obligation for the AKP government: to establish due process and guarantee fair and timely trials.
In contrast, past reforms by Prime Minister Erdogan's government have strengthened civilian control over the armed forces. In 2003 the parliament passed a reform bill that increased the number of civilian members in the National Security Council. And instead of being able to make "priority recommendations," the military is now confined to a purely advisory role.
In addition, the armed forces have less authority to request documents and information from the executive branch of the government. When the military leadership opposed Abdullah Gul's presidency because his wife wears a hijab, the AKP pursued his candidacy nevertheless. Yet the military's response did not go further than boycotting receptions attended by the first lady.
The largest opposition group, the Republican Party, or CHP, traditionally closely aligned with the military, has by and large supported the move toward civilian control. CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu insisted that civilian authority must be established, but at the same time stated that through the resignations the "importance of a disinterested judiciary has been emphasized once again" and claimed that the "courts are being utilized by the political authorities."
After this week the military will never return to the commanding heights of the Turkish state. Yet it is still unclear whether the AKP's victory will ultimately be in the name of democracy. If anything, that will be the real challenge for the ruling party. Given Turkey's prominent role in U.S. foreign and security policy, it is important that the rule of law prevails in Turkey. As an emerging power in the Eastern Mediterranean, much of what Turkey can contribute to stabilizing the region will depend upon further democratization within the country. For the United States, the Cold War ally has become a strategic partner-the full development of the rule of law in Turkey is a national security interest of the United States.