Seventeen people were detained in the fourth wave of detentions as part of the probe into the Feb. 28 coup on Tuesday, and the prosecutor referred 15 of them to court, calling for their arrest in the evening of Wednesday. And 11 of them -- six active duty and five retired generals -- were arrested Thursday morning.
Facing coup probes should be as undesirable as facing coups themselves. Yet, for the sake of establishing the sense of fair administration of justice across the society, there is nothing more natural than trying those who deprived hundreds of thousands of civilians of their most fundamental rights with coercion, through conspiracies and by devising plots against them because of their beliefs. No one has the right to label the right of victimized people to seek justice through laws using terms such as "witch-hunt" or "seeking revenge." No one except the actors of the Feb. 28 coup should be disturbed by this probe. This even applies to the prime minister.
In this context, the statement Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made to reporters after returning from his visit to Italy on Tuesday morning was not compatible with the sensitivities and expectations of the general public. Justice and Development Party (AKP) Deputy Chairman and spokesperson Hüseyin Çelik tried to clarify the prime minister's words, saying that this statement did not mean meddling in the duties of the prosecutors and the judiciary. But it is hard to agree with Çelik. "There is an ongoing process regarding the Feb. 28 probe, but things like the first wave, the second wave, the third wave and the forth wave in fact disturb the public. We are also significantly disturbed by this. The necessary steps should be taken and that should be it, but when the waves [of arrests] follow one after another, pardon me, but the country will suffocate. I think this business should not be extended much longer," Erdoğan had said. His statement will certainly be etched into history as not befitting a prime minister. Why? The reason is simple: The masses, who are the main makers of history and the main power driving the ruling AKP, do not agree with the prime minister in this respect.
You must have read it in Today's Zaman's Thursday issue, but I will repeat it once more. According to the results of the most comprehensive survey ever on coups, conducted by the Professor Özer Sencar-led Ankara-based MetroPOLL Strategic and Social Research Center, 68 percent of the participants find the trial of suspected coup actors right and necessary while only 27 percent disagreed. Of this 27 percent, 49 percent are Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) supporters and 45 percent are Republican People's Party (CHP) voters, and this is clear proof that Erdoğan's discourse overlaps with the militarist voter base of the opposition parties, not with his own party's voters. The survey also indicates that MHP voters are slightly more militaristic than CHP voters.
Since the inception of the probes into coups, one of the frequently voiced claims is that the social groups who were victimized by coups in the past are today acting with feelings of revenge. However, according to MetroPOLL, only 23 percent believe that the investigations and cases seek to take revenge on suspected coup plotters. Those who think the investigations are in fact a requirement of [Turkey] being a state of law stand at 71 percent. This finding is proof that the idea of confronting and settling accounts with coups and coup perpetrators through the due process of law is generally accepted by the public. Likewise, 47.5 percent of CHP voters and 41 percent of MHP voters believe that coup probes are seeking to take revenge. On the other hand, 61 percent of the respondents believe that the start of the coup trials will contribute to the reinforcement of democracy in Turkey. This rate is 78 percent among AKP voters, 71 percent among Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) voters, 34 percent among CHP voters, and 49 percent among MHP voters.
The MetroPOLL survey also indicates that the overwhelming majority of the public does not approve of the military's role in politics. Thus, 79 percent say the army must never overthrow the government under any circumstances. Those who would support the army if it seizes power stand at only 17 percent. Actually, even this 17 percent anti-democratic mass can be considered too big in this age of democracy. It is surprising to see that 11 percent of this group comes from AKP voters while CHP voters and MHP voters account for 24.4 percent and 27.5 percent, respectively. Even 9 percent of BDP voters approve of coups. The CHP and MHP managements should seriously discuss why their voters have such a weak trust in democracy. They should also revise their role and responsibilities in guiding their voter base in this regard.
Another finding is that 77.4 percent of the respondents believe the military will not stage a new coup while 14 percent disagree. This figure may be representing the public's expectations that the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) should not stage a coup. And given that the methods of military intervention are continually changing in method and form, I believe coups are still a serious threat to Turkish democracy. It can perhaps be argued that while the likelihood of a coup like that of May 27, 1960 or Sept. 12, 1980 has considerably decreased, this does not mean the military will never meddle in the civilian sphere. True, the era of interfering in the civilian sphere via tanks and cannons might have ended, but no one can claim that the potential of using rich methods of psychological warfare to meddle in society and politics is not present today.
Nevertheless, it is refreshing to see that those who say they would take to the streets in protest if the military staged a coup number 66 percent. Indeed, none of the past coups in Turkey saw any popular resistance. Coup perpetrators were encouraged by their prediction that the public would show no reaction to coups. The fact that an overwhelming 82.4 percent of respondents say coups inflict heavy damage on Turkey while 11.7 percent believe they are good for Turkey indicates that the public has developed an awareness that coups are a disaster for the society. That those who find coups beneficial are 14 percent among CHP voters and 22 percent among MHP voters is thought-provoking, but this finding is compatible with the above-mentioned figures. The pro-coup and pro-intervention attitude of about a quarter of CHP and MHP voters deserves the attention of respective party managements as a disease that must be treated.
Furthermore, 66 percent of the respondents find the Feb. 28 military intervention wrong and unfair while only 14 percent approve of it. Furthermore, 43 percent see then-President Süleyman Demirel as the chief mastermind behind this intervention while the strongest support -- 25 percent -- to Demirel, a right-wing politician, ironically came from left-wing CHP voters. And 53 percent demand that Demirel be tried on coup charges. Other prominent actors of the Feb. 28 coup include the TSK (34 percent), certain media networks (41 percent) and big capitalists (37 percent). In other words, people put the blame of the Feb. 28 coup first on Demirel, then on the media, and then on capitalists and finally on the military. In this case, one may say that the probe into the actors of the Feb. 28 coup has started in the reverse order. One of the most striking findings of the survey is that 55 percent of the respondents believe civilians, including the media networks and big capitalists, should be tried in addition to the generals.
Finally, I should note that 54 percent said prosecutors should initiate an investigation of the figures behind the General Staff's 2007 statement, known as the "e-memorandum." The statement urged the AKP to hold snap elections. Despite all efforts and propaganda to inhibit them, let us hope that the process of confronting or settling accounts with the coups should continue without slowing down. Everyone can rest assured that such a process will be a major indicator of the country's health and that of its democracy.