The dilemmas posed by the coup in Turkey

Last night’s events in Turkey provide a useful reminder as to what a coup (whether or not it’s successful) really is.

a sudden, violent, and illegal seizure of power from a government.

Generally one can predict how people will respond to dramatic news stories but this one has revealed some less obvious fault lines.  Dislike for Erdogan had to be weighed against dislike for coups and enthusiasm for secularism against enthusiasm for democracy. Owen Jones, no fan of Erdogan, was perturbed by the idea that the coup could be seen as welcome or legitimate.

However many – including Marc of course – were cheering it on, at least to some degree. Understandably, given that it’s easy to agree with the coup leaders’ assertion that Erdogan is eroding Turkey’s secular traditions.  A centre left friend made the case for the coup being the lesser of two evils.

A Pegida fan seemed to reach the same conclusion

Shadi Hamid expressed irritation at what he sees as Western hypocrisy over democracy when it doesn’t deliver the right outcome.

However there’s a real tension for liberals and secularists when a regime with the support of the majority represses minorities and clamps down on individual freedoms, including media freedoms.  However Erdogan is not Assad, and some in Turkey hate the government but opposed the attempt to get rid of it through undemocratic means.

Many of those protesting say they do not support the government or Erdoğan but will demonstrate in support of the democratically elected government in the face of an attempted – if apparently failed – military coup.

“We got used to crazy things,” said Ahmet, a waiter. He said that he wasn’t sure how to feel about the challenge to Mr Erdogan. “Whether you like him or not, he was democratically elected,” he said. “I don’t like him much but we don’t have a strong opposition. We will have to wait and see.”

This caution is understandable and a successful coup, however congenial the organisers’ motives may be, might only make things worse, not to mention further destabilise the region. Opposition parties spoke out against the coup. There was never going to be a good outcome.

Similar dilemmas have of course been presented by events in Egypt.  These offer a dispiriting reminder that neither democratically elected governments nor supposedly secular regimes come with any guarantee that they’ll be to our taste.  I was inclined to agree with Owen Jones, but thought his criticism of Erdogan was rather weak – it was as though he was objecting to an attempted coup against Theresa May.

Finally, although I saw many contrasting responses to the coup attempt, this was perhaps the worst.

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