Turkish military promises 'speedy' return to democracy
There is an old custom in Turkey that when a person considers a conversation futile, he leaves his hat on the chair and walks away.Skip to next paragraph
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In the recent referendum, voters left their hats on the political parties' chairs, giving the military program the electorate's seal of approval.
Despite the ban against political parties and a virtual one-man campaign, the large voter turnout and the unexpected 92 percent endorsement of Gen. Kenan Evren marks the disintegration of the traditional grass-roots strength of the old political parties and trade unions and the sudden loss of charisma by their leaders.
The former general, elected to a seven-year presidential term, has discarded his uniform and shifted to civilian institutions. ''I will create the third Turkish republic,'' Evren announced. ''It will be a pluralistic system - but not at the risk of jeopardizing national unity and domestic order.''
Turkey's new republic - the third since 1923 - will be founded on the ashes of the most violent terrorist wave to have engulfed a Western nation, and on the worst economic and political crisis in the country's history. Before the military seized power two years ago, there was one murder every 90 minutes, inflation was running at 150 percent, industries were producing at only 50 percent capacity, and a polarized Parliament failed to elect a president after more than 100 ballots.
The memory of the past has given unprecedented powers to General Evren and his five-member National Security Council, which will continue to run the country. The rigidity of the new Constitution and the collapse of the parties leaves the Army unchecked, no longer subject to their mediating influence.
Government spokesman Ilham Oeztrak compared General Evren to Charles de Gaulle and promised that ''democracy will certainly be restored. A law regulating political parties will be approved four months from now, and in the fall of 1983 there will be general elections.''
Adm. Nejat Tumer, one of the members of the National Security Council, has hinted that current restrictions and the curbs on basic rights and freedoms authorized by the new Constitution could in time be lifted. But the state of emergency persists.
Officials admit 16,333 prisoners held on terrorist charges are still awaiting trial; and the London-based human rights group, Amnesty International, charges there is persistent use of torture, which has already claimed dozens of lives.
A new law stripped universities of their autonomy. A presidentially appointed National Council selects deans and professors, determines what courses are permitted, and chooses all the reading lists. The first bill on the agenda after the referendum calls for a one-year extension on prosecutability for press offenses.
The authorities' optimism about a speedy return to democracy is not shared by the political milieu.
''For the first time the Army intervened on a very strong political and ideological basis, leaving aside the myth of its neutrality,'' a journalist of the liberal daily Cumhuriyet said.
The Turkish Army has often intervened in the political sphere - 10 of the last 20 years were under some form of martial law - but takeover of power always followed a precise code of behavior: Once the Army had reestablished order and restored national unity, it would withdraw to the barracks, aware of its subordinate role to civilian power.