The World From Berlin Coup Threat May End Turkey's EU Dream

The Turkish army's veiled threat of a coup is partly aimed at retaining political power in the face of curbs being placed on it by a government enacting liberal reforms to get Turkey into the European Union, say German commentators. The crisis has raised new doubts about whether Turkey can qualify to join the EU, they add.

The veiled coup threat marks a bid by the army to retain political power, write German media commentators.

The veiled coup threat marks a bid by the army to retain political power, write German media commentators.

Turkey has plunged into a political crisis over a presidential election that has pitted the Islamist-rooted government against secular protesters led an the army that has toppled three governments since 1960.

The Europe Union and the United States have called for a democratic resolution and the Council of Europe, a group of 46 countries aimed at promoting democratic values, said it was shocked at the army's behavior and said the armed forces "should stay in their barracks and keep out of politics."

German media commentators blame the army for plunging Turkey into a crisis that has lessened the country's chances of joining the EU. The military, commentators write, is trying to preserve its own power, under threat from a government that has made a lot of progress in reforming Turkey's social and economic institutions.

Center-left Süddeutsche Zeitung writes:

"It seems to be a special Turkish art form to plunge itself into political crises.

"The country has to choose between returning to the dark ages of the distant past or moving towards a democratic future. This is about nothing less than that, and about whether Turkey will at some point be able to find its place in the EU or simply doesn't fit into Europe."

"The army pretends that Erdogan's AKP (Justice and Development Party) isn't much better than the Palestinian Hamas, a radical Islamic party. It has had trouble scratching together evidence of this. One could take an entirely different view of the AKP's achievements. In just four and a half years Erdogan's government has produced more stability and economic prosperity than many of its predecessor governments."

"The AKP has done what no other government before it dared, it has repeatedly thrown down the gauntlet to the military ... Many generals don't like this approach. And it seems that high-ranking officers are suspicious not just of the AKP, but of democracy itself.

"Erdogan, Gül and the AKP have their roots in political Islam but they have left radicalism behind them. Their transformation was a long process and it has a lot to do with the fact that there is no majority for Islamic extremism in Turkey. Scientific studies say so, and so do all surveys. Anyone who tries to transform Turkey into a second Iran would be punished by the voters. The military apparently does not believe this. They mistrust their own people even after 80 years of living in a republic."

"The Erdogan government must now try -- together with the opposition -- to find a way out of the crisis. That could mean early new elections. But the country should first elect its president, in parliament and democratically."

Conservative Die Welt writes:

"The fifth coup is now happening. The army wants to stop the governing AKP party from making one of its leaders state president. In one way or another the army will take action if the government defies it. It may be that this course of events is the Turkish way of doing things. But it's clear that we're seeing a political culture here that is light years away from being brought into harmony with the European mindset in any respect. Ankara's EU dream is over."

"Now there'll either be bloodshed or new elections or both. Elections would end the AKP's domination."

"But it wouldn't be a coup to protect democracy. No general is claiming that. This time they are only referring to an 'Islamic danger.' One can argue whether this is true of the AKP. But the issue is a different one: the AKP and the EU cannot accept a Turkey ruled by the military. The army faces extinction as a political force if the AKP isn't stopped. This isn't about the common good, it's about self interest, status and holding on to power. It would be a dysfunctional coup."

Conservative Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung writes:

"The generals' threat and and the mobilization of hundreds of thousands who are demonstrating for a secular Turkey show that the country is in effect, albeit not in legal terms, in a state of emergency."

"Observers have to ask whether a country with this constellation is ripe for accession talks with the EU."

The left-leaning Die Tageszeitung writes:

"Turkey is just a few steps away from violence and chaos ... With the generals' threat of a coup and mass demonstrations on the one hand and the government's uncompromising insistence on making its candidate the president on the other, the final stage of escalation has been reached before the outbreak of violence. Anyone with political responsibility, be it the government, the opposition or the military, who does not now seek a compromise wants to see blood spilled."

"The constitutional court could offer a temporary way out of the conflict. If it declares invalid the first election round, in which Abdullah Gül did not get a majority, Erdogan could call new parliamentary elections without losing face and fend off the threatened coup. Both parts of society (the secular and the religious) would have the opportunity to carry out their dispute via the electoral process. The winner in the parliamentary elections could then elect a president with more democratic justification."

"But fundamentally, the conflict about Turkey's future path will remain virulent. The country isn't just a bridge between the East and West, it's also the front line state in which the conflict goes through the heart of society. The only way to deal with this peacefully and keep finding a balance is to have stable democratic rules that are respected by all."

"That must entail reining in the military. But at the same time neither of the two groups must try to seize on a coincidental majority -- which parliament currently reflects -- to overturn the balance of power. A new societal contract can only be created through dialogue. What Turkey needs is a new political culture."

David Crossland, 2 p.m. CET


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