Süleyman Demirel, the former Turkish president who was overthrown by the military two times in 1971 and 1980, had defined it once in one word: Military. It was the military who had overthrown the Menderes government in 1960 and assumed widespread influence over civilian bureaucracy, judiciary and universities along the way.
Erdoğan changed the rules of the game through a series of legal changes and – especially after being threatened by the military in 2007 over the presidential elections – he enjoyed the successive court cases, with indictments accusing scores of army officers, academics, lawyers, writers and journalists of conspiring to overthrow the government. Evidence based on police intelligence efforts like tapping telephones or obtaining digital records from computers helped a new generation of prosecutors to write the indictments for a new generation of judges.
The return of the ‘deep state’ was voiced by Erdoğan in the same statement where he revealed that some bugs had been found in his office by intelligence organizations. It was later understood that an attempt to interrogate Turkey’s intelligence chief, Hakan Fidan, in February 2012 by prosecutors acting upon police intelligence, was after the incident. That was followed by a surge among prosecutors, judges and police forces, which Turkish media claimed was close to the U.S.-resident theologist Fethullah Gülen.
Yalçın Akdoğan, a deputy for the ruling AK Parti and Erdoğan’s close aide on security matters, told Radikal newspaper on Dec. 28 that there was no rift between the government and the Gülen group, since “they are complementary to each other.” On the other hand, Akif Beki, a former official spokesman for Erdoğan and now a columnist, told CNN Türk on Dec. 27 that “Those who played an important role in clearing the influence of the military from the deep state might be trying to fill the gap themselves.” He particularly mentioned the police and judiciary, without saying who “those” might be.
A very interesting debate is going on in Ankara in the last days of the year, signaling a lively debate in 2013.
(Murat Yetkin is a columnist at Hurriyet Daily News, where this article was first published Dec. 29, 2012.)