As Turkish authorities cast the net far and wide to scoop up those they suspect of participating or colluding in Friday’s failed coup, opposition politicians, as well as foreign leaders, are urging President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to show magnanimity and set aside his autocratic instincts in his response to the unsuccessful putsch.
Failure to rethink his divide-and-rule governing style, they warn, risks greater political and social strife, and erosion of the rule of law.
European leaders are warning that repression will further roil relations with the West and could doom a deal they struck with Erdogan earlier this year that has helped to limit the migration crisis impacting the European continent.
They warn that moves to restore the death penalty to allow for the executions of the coup organizers or moves to imprison ethnic Kurdish lawmakers recently stripped of immunity will prompt the European Parliament to decide to halt the deal that rewards Turkey financially for stemming the refugee and migrant flow.
The pleas to Erdogan have been met by harsh rhetoric, mass detentions and arrests.
Prime Minister Binali Yilidirim said Monday 7,543 people have been detained and 2,745 members of the judiciary suspended. He also said 1,500 officials in the Finance Ministry and 8,777 Interior Ministry officials have been suspended.
On Sunday, Erdogan vowed to purge state bodies of the “virus” that caused the coup, and signs are his crackdown includes not only coup participants, but perceived enemies as well, warn diplomats and analysts.
The country’s main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), Monday warned Erdogan not to launch a witch hunt, arguing it was the erosion of democracy under his presidency that gave rise to the coup attempt.
“Plotters and all their affiliates should give account before the courts within the legal order,” the CHP said, “Investigations should not be seen as an opportunity for revenge and purging.”
Observers question how and when the lists of those to be detained or suspended were drawn up, especially when it comes to the civilians who were not directly participating in the armed rebellion on Friday.
EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini is among those suspicious of the arrests and purges already carried out, arguing it looks like the lists were drawn up before the coup was launched.
Speaking Monday in Brussels, she warned the Turkish government that it must protect the rule of law as it responds to the failed coup. “We are the ones saying today rule of law has to be protected in the country; there is no excuse for any steps that take the country away from that.”
The magnitude and speed of the unfolding purge is lending credence to the fear some of the plotters reportedly had that the Erdogan government was planning in the coming days and weeks to carry out a large cleansing of perceived foes in the bureaucracy and judiciary, as well as a major reorganization of military commanders.
‘Sloppy and uncoordinated’
Those fears are what triggered the launch of the coup Friday, suspects Metin Gurcan, an independent security analyst and former adviser to the Turkish military. “Had there not been a coup attempt July 15, there would have been massive detentions on July 16-17,” argues Gurcan.
“The plotters learned of this plan and launched their sloppy and uncoordinated attempt hastily. In other words, the coup attempt that was planned for a future date was moved up,” he writes on the Al Monitor news-site.
Gurcan maintains the military clique behind the coup consisted of officers with ties to the movement of Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, now in self-imposed exile in the United States, other officers motivated either by a determination to save or boost their military careers, and commanders dedicated to the secular values of the army and angry with the direction Erdogan has been taking the country.
“The involvement of a large number of the judiciary and even Erdogan’s own military aide suggests that opposition to him is deep and widespread within the country's institutions,” says Afzal Ashraf, an analyst at the Royal United Services Institute.
“How President Erdogan responds to his victory over the coup conspirators and what he does to address the widespread grievances they attempted to harness will determine how Turkey moves forward,” he says. “Erdogan can gain much political advantage by introducing more openness in public debate and adopting a less regal style in his trappings of power,” he told VOA.
But Ashraf warns, “His ego may take him in an opposite direction.”