Law Change Could End Military Involvement in Politics

In its latest move to remove the military from Turkish politics the Turkish Parliament on Saturday amended an army regulation that had often been used as a precursor for the military to get involved in politics and even to overthrow previous governments on several occasions.

This regulation, or one article in particular concerning the military safeguarding the republic, had been cited as legal backing for overthrowing governments they believed were undermining republican principles in the Constitution, such as secularism.

Indeed the military successful toppled 4 governments between 1960 and 1997 using the article, and cited it in a warning to the current government as recently as 2007.

Now rewritten, article No. 35, restricts the army to “defending the Turkish nation against external threats and dangers,” the semiofficial Anatolian News Agency reported.

However, the change is tantamount to the final nail in an already-sealed coffin as Prime Minister Erdogan has already largely pushed the military out of politics using structural reforms. For example he has successfully elevated civilian control in the once army-dominated National Council. As a result hundreds of high-ranking army officers have been put on trial for plotting to overthrow the government.

The legislation came after large antigovernment riots in June, as protests about the razing of a park grew into demonstrations against what many called Mr. Erdogan’s autocratic tendencies. Although the army did not step into the conflict, Atilla Sandikli, director of the Ankara-based Wise Men Center for Strategic Studies, said the wording change was also an effort to ensure that it would not do so.