Gulen and Erdogan: After the Failed Coup, a Fight for Power

The ongoing conflict between Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and preacher Fethullah Gulen is more about power than ideology, according to Huseyin Bagci, Professor at the Department of International Relations, Middle East Technical University in Ankara.

“I would call it a ‘brother war.’ It is not about ideologically different sides, but rather who is getting a greater share of power in the state, and Erdogan was not willing to share his power, and this failed coup provided him with any argument now to be the number one man, or the ruler of the country,” Bagci said.

When it came to the motivations for Erdogan’s actions after the coup attempt, Bagci said that Erdogan’s actions paralleled Gulen’s ideology, and that the conflict over power developed as Erdogan did everything Gulen wanted, except giving him political power.

“Fethullah Gulen is the main motivation now for President Erdogan to justify his political actions. The Americans will probably not extradite him, and the Turkish-American relations will have a certain cool-off period. Many people in Turkey started now to talk about whether Turkey is changing the course toward closer relations with Russia, because President Putin was the first to support the Turkish President and the government,” Bagci said.

Bagci also noted that the failed coup gave Erdogan nearly unlimited power over the state, alluding to Louis XIV. As a politician, Bagci noted, Erdogan is the most powerful politician in Turkey’s history, with the exception of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

“This anachronistic, failed coup made Erdogan stronger, having him more alternative, giving much more support from the entire population. He’s definitely the one strong man, as we have seen, he now chairs the National Security Council, and from now on, in the next three months, he is going to chair the Cabinet, so he alone is the President, Prime Minister, and the ruler, if you will. It is one-man rule in practice, indefinitely,” Bagci also said.

Bagci noted that he does not expect a turn toward Russia to occur, although he noted that the events could provide another impetus for the improvement of Turkish-Russian relations. He noted that according to the Turkish government, the pilots who shot down the Russian plane said in custody under the allegation that they shot down the plane to create tensions with Russia.

He also noted that reinstating visa-free travel between Russia and Turkey could be a trust-building measure that would improve the relationship, although under the current state of emergency, scholars like him are unable to leave the country.

Bagci noted that he believes that Gulen supporters were behind the coup, although he said that he could not at this point name any motivations for its attempt.

“The coup participants consisted of officers who were groomed in the past 30 years by the Gulen movement. The failed coup is the tip of the iceberg. In terms of the main motivation, I can only suppose that they wanted more power because it was not enough to simply have their people in high positions,” Bagci said.

Bagci concluded that communication within the so-called “deep state” of security services was largely lacking. He added that a second coup seems unlikely, and that Erdogan’s foes were now paying the price for having failed.

Views expressed are of individual Members and Contributors, rather than the Club's, unless explicitly stated otherwise.