Formidable tasks await junta after Turkish coup

Turkey's new junta, or National Security Council, faces difficult times ahead. Its task is to solve Turkey's deep-rooted political and economic problems, which recently have spilled over into growing violence and terrorism on the streets despite civilian government efforts to stem the tide.

But as the military regime starts its work, it is receiving a warm reception from individual Turks.

"We were sick and tired of terrorism and anarchy," said a shopkeeper here. "Our lives were in danger all the time. We have confidence in our Army more than in our politicians and trust that peace and order will last."

Similar comments were offred by many. But the more politically minded Turks question whether the military will succeed where the civilian administration has failed -- that is, in mending this country's political, economic, and even its ethnic and religious fabric.

Much will depend on the ability of the new strong man, Gen. Kenan Evren, and his team, and on the duration of military rule.

General Evren is known as a middle-of-the-road intelligent officer who has no political ambitions. In fact, he reportedly was very reluctant to seize power -- and did his best to persuade politicians to behave before the military lost its patience.

But despite a letter of warning from the general last December, the squabbling among politicians continued. They failed to elect a new president despite many efforts since last March. They could not agree on early elections. And they did not move on an anti-terrorist bill.

Moreover, political violence reached dangerous proportions (involving ethnical and sectarian factors), and the modern basis of the Turkish Republic (founder Mustaf Kemal Ataturk's principles) was seriously threatened.

The coup thus had been expected for quite some time. It was surprising to some that it did not happen sooner.

General Evren and other members of the junta want to put Turkey back on "Ataturk's path," as well as bring an end to violence, restore law and order, and then hand power back to the civilians, as General Evren promised in his televised address to the nation.

But they believe that, in order to make democracy work in Turkey, the Constitution and the laws on political parties and national elections should be changed. This requires some time. How long is anybody's guess at this stage.

One key question is whether the rightist and leftist militants will keep quiet (as they have done since the coup) or go into action again, this time choosing the Army as a target. On the first day of the coup many militants -- estimated at a few hundred -- were arrested.

Population: 45.1 million.

Ethnic divisions: 85 percent Turkish, 12 percent Kurd, 3 percent other.

Language: Turkish, Kurdish, Arabic.

Literacy: 65 percent.

Religions: 99 percent Muslim, mostly Sunni; 1 percent divided between Christian and Jewish.


* Gross national product, $49 billion.

* Per capita income, $1,130(US per capita income is $7,860.)

* Major employer, agriculture -- cotton, tobacco, cereals, sugar beets, fruits, nuts, livestock. Nation is self-sufficient in food.

* Other industries -- textiles, food processing, steel petroleum, mining(coal , chromite, cooper, boron minerals).

* Major trading partners: West Germany, Italy, US, Switzer land, France.

Military spending: $2.4 billion, or 16 percent of central government budget.

Civilian government: President elected by Parliament; prime minister appointed by president from members of Parliament. Prime minister is effective executive. The Parliament is bicameral, with 450 members in National Assembly, 150 in Senate. Universal sufferage for citizens over 21.

Military government: A six-man National Security Council, headed by Gen. Kenan Evren, chief of staff of the Turkish armed forces, now is running the country after an apparently bloodless military coup on Sept. 12. The military junta ousted Prime Minister Suleyman Demirel, dissolved the Cabinet and government, and took about 100 legislators and political figures into custody.

Another major test will be how much the armed forces, which have been the most unified, disciplined, and respected institution in Turkey, will remain so. Many Turkish newspapers have pointed out that "the sooner things get going, the better."

In other words, while many Turks welcome the Army's move to take power, they want the changes to made quickly -- and to go back to the democratic system as soon as possible.

Last but not least among the problems for the military to tackle is the disastrous economy. General Evren met Mr. Demirel's undersecretary for economic affairs, Turgut Ozal, and his team, who were responsible for the implementation of a "stabilization program" based on a free market economy, and has decided to keep them in their posts.

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