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Erdogan Prepares for Battle of Constitution | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Reuters

While the Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and his government launched an overhaul to complete their control over the army, judiciary, intelligence institutions, and are preparing for their battle to achieve constitution’s amendments or a new constitution, that may indicate the start of a new phase that adopts a presidential system instead the parliamentary one, the repercussions of the coup attempt that struck Turkey in July are still trickling.

As per the three-month emergency state declared in the country following the coup attempt, Turkish government has issued a decree on Saturday that has enabled the President and the government to issue direct orders to the heads of the army, air force and navy — directly over the head of the chief of the general staff.

The decree also stipulated the establishment of a new National Defense University that encompasses all educational institutions of the Turkish Army. The university will feature institutions that will educate staff officers and provide graduate-level education and operate Land Forces, Navy Forces and Air Force schools, non-commissioned officer colleges and non-commissioned officer vocational schools for higher education.

The university’s rector will be chosen by the president out of three names suggested by the defense minister and also approved by the prime minister.

The decree has also announced the discharge of 1,389 military personnel including high-rank officers who align with the opposing entity of Fethullah Gülen, accused of being involved in the coup of July.

In an interview on Saturday, Erdogan said he also wanted to put the country’s MIT intelligence agency and the chief of general staff’s headquarters under the presidency, which will require a simple constitutional reform, according to Erdogan.

Discharge of half of army’s generals

After the failing coup attempt in Turkey on 15 July, the Turkish army has witnessed remarkable replacements that included the discharge of around half of the army’s generals (149 generals and admirals), and the promotion of 99 colonels to fill the gaps caused by the discharges.

The decree, which was officially released in The Turkish official gazette on Sunday said that the Gendarmerie General Command and Coast Guard Command were brought under the Interior Ministry.

As part of the same decree law, the Gülhane Military Medical Academy (GATA) and other military hospitals will be brought under the control of the Health Ministry. At the same time, the Ministry of Defense has appointed 167 generals and admirals in the Turkey’s land, naval and air forces and GATA Academy, in accordance with the same decree.

According to the Turkish General Staff, the coup attempt involved 8,651 officers from Gulen’s supporters. The statement also reported that 35 planes, 37 helicopters, 36 tanks and 246 armored vehicles have participated in the topple attempt, which killed 200 people and injured more than 2,000 others.

State of Intelligence

As part of new military restructuring plan, the government has revealed that it is currently studying the restructure on intelligence system and many options to introduce the development plan on the president’s powers.

Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım said that the government has been considering the joining of the MIT intelligence agency and the chief of general staff’s headquarters under the presidency.

In an interview, Yıldırım re-criticized the Turkish intelligence system saying that the coup attempt of 15 July could have been avoided if the agency has provided the sufficient intelligence information.

Prior the coup, Yildirim announced that Turkish intelligence knew military coup would be carried out in advance, and that the intelligence president didn’t provide any justifications for these reports.

Opposition and constitution

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey’s main opposition party (Republican People’s Party or CHP) has expressed concerns from the restructuring process launched and said that any needed restructure in the state should take place in the parliament.

Erdogan sees that after the clearance of the military, intelligence, and judiciary agencies, the country needs a new constitution. During his meeting with officials from the chambers of commerce and bourses in Ankara, Erdogan has called the opposition parties to cooperate with the Justice and Development party to amend the constitution aiming at what he called “enhancing the authority of the state”.

Final outcome of the crackdown

The Turkish prime minister announced that people who have been arrested following the coup attempt reached 25,917 person, including around 13,000 who have been imprisoned. A new announcement has reported that the Ministry of Justice will receive applications from 2,000 candidates to fill the positions of judges, prosecutors, and others.