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Turkish politics expert says Erdogan will use attempted coup to his advantage

Monday, July 18, 2016

LAWRENCE — Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan may want to the thank the instigators of last week’s failed coup, according to a Turkish politics expert who is available to speak with media about the events.

“The early aftermath of the coup appears to support the claim that Erdogan will use the coup to his advantage,” said F. Michael Wuthrich. 

Wuthrich is assistant director at the University of Kansas Center for Global & International Studies and the author of “National Elections in Turkey: People, Politics, and the Party System,” which examines Turkey’s national elections from 1950 to 2011.

“While an actual coup would have been a setback, the failed coup — especially as it has played out — has set the table for the president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, to reset the balance of power in the country even more dramatically in his personal favor.”

Among the facets of the events Wuthrich can discuss:

The role of Turkish media: “The coup plotters' lack of planning in regard to shutting down media outlets, with a few exceptions, created such an environment in which the entire sequence of events, both within and outside of Turkey, were narrated by media outlets close to the president. Due to fears of reprisal, mainstream media stations not directly controlled by pro-government ownership resorted to re-broadcasting the reports spun by government officials and news sources. This environment and broadcast news footage of masses of civilians standing up to the military played like a made-for-TV-movie to the extent that, before the coup was over, some on social media began building the case that the whole coup was staged by Erdogan to consolidate his power.”

The role of the Turkish military: “Never before during Turkey’s previous coups have the people stood in the military’s way or gone out into the streets at all. In the minds of those engaged in the coup attempts, they assumed a popular or at least passive response to their move to remove the president. When they encountered a huge mass of protesters, it was obvious that they didn’t know what to do as they had no desire to jeopardize their already tarnished popularity with the people and get civilian blood on their hands."

Fethullah Gulen: “Gulen is a controversial figure in Turkey and has always been treated with deep suspicions by those with staunchly secular worldviews, so Gulen has become a perfect scapegoat. It is likely that followers of Gulen in the police force leaked the corruption tapes on Erdogan in early 2014, and it is possible that some of the planners of the coup had Gulen sympathies. At the same time, it’s extremely unlikely that the coup was dictated from Pennsylvania. It is unlikely that the coup could have been that extensive without non-Gulen support.” 

To arrange an interview with Wuthrich, contact Erinn Barcomb-Peterson at ebp@ku.edu or 785-864-8858