It’s the will of the Turkish people, Erdogan says. But which people?
There are decades where nothing happens; and there are weeks where decades happen,” Lenin said. Turkey is having weeks like that. After the failed coup on 15 July, followed by a state of emergency, little is how it appears to be any more.
What may eventually become clear is that under this state of emergency, a new political settlement is emerging. President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is mobilising “the people” to turn the suspension of the constitution into the foundation of a body politic. Whether he succeeds could determine the nature of the Turkish state and society in the 21st century.
The date of the attempted coup, 15 July, has already been declared a national holiday to commemorate the “martyrs” who helped to halt the military on the streets that day. Since the coup attempt Erdoğan and his Justice and Development party (AKP) have been using all means possible to ensure that “the people” continuously fill the streets and squares. In Istanbul, where I was yesterday, public transport has been declared free, while mobile phone companies, under orders from the state, are providing free calls. All citizens have received text messages from the president himself, urging them to demonstrate in the streets after work until further notice. And many do. Tens of thousands gather every night to celebrate the defeat of the coup and “defend democracy”. In Taksim Square, the crowd – men and women, some with their children – was triumphant. According to Erdoğan, the people who come out are manifesting a singular “national will”, which he, as the commander-in-chief, embodies. “Do not leave the squares until a further order,” he commands “his” nation.