Military Intervention and the Return to Civilian Rule
The summer of 1980 was a chaotic time in Turkey. Political violence and sectarian unrest mounted in the cities and spread through the countryside. The work of parliament had come almost to a standstill, and the country was left without an elected pres
ident. On September 5, Ecevit aligned the CHP with Erbakan and his NSP to force the resignation of Demirel's foreign minister, Hayrettin Erkman, whose strongly pro-Western views had won him the approval of General Staff officers. The next day, the NSP spo
nsored a massive rally at Konya, where Islamists (also seen as fundamentalists) demonstrated to demand the reinstatement of Islamic law in Turkey, reportedly showing disrespect for the flag and the national anthem. These acts were regarded as an open renu
nciation of Kemalism and a direct challenge to the military. On September 7, General Evren met secretly with armed forces and police commanders to set in motion plans for another coup.
In the early morning hours of September 12, 1980, the armed forces seized control of the country. There was no organized resistance to the coup; indeed, many Turks welcomed it as the only alternative to anarchy. Whereas the 1960 and 1971 military coup
s had institutional reform as their objective, the 1980 action was undertaken to shore up the order created by the earlier interventions. A five-member executive body, the National Security Council (NSC--see Glossary), was appointed. Composed of the servi
ce chiefs and the gendarmerie commander, it was headed by General Evren, who was recognized as head of state. On September 21, the NSC installed a predominantly civilian cabinet and named Bülent Ulusu, a recently retired admiral, prime minister. A 160-mem
ber Consultative Assembly subsequently was appointed to draft a constitution for what would become Turkey's Third Republic.
The first order of business for the military regime was to reestablish law and order in the strife-torn country. Martial law was extended to all the provinces. Suspected militants of all political persuasions as well as trade union and student activis
ts were arrested, and party leaders were taken into custody along with a large number of deputies. Demirel and Ecevit were soon released but told to keep a low profile. When Ecevit began to publish political articles, he was rearrested and jailed for seve
ral months. The Grand National Assembly was dissolved and its members barred from politics for periods of up to ten years. Political parties were abolished and their assets liquidated by the state. The trade unions were purged and strikes banned. Workers
who were striking at the time of the coup were given substantial pay raises and ordered back to their jobs.
Altogether, some 30,000 people were reported arrested in the first few weeks after the coup. Figures are uncertain, but a year later about 25,000 were still being held, and, after two years, an estimated 10,000 remained in custody, some without having
been formally charged. Türkes and nearly 600 of his followers from the MHP were tried on charges of committing or abetting terrorist acts. A number of those found guilty of terrorism were hanged. Erbakan and Türkes were subsequently convicted of election
tampering and given two-year prison terms. Turkey's international reputation suffered as a result of charges of political repression, arbitrary arrest, imprisonment without trial, torture, and other human rights violations. West European governments appe
aled to the military regime to restore parliamentary rule, and a portion of the OECD's relief package for Turkey was withheld. The European Community also suspended financial assistance, and Turkish delegates were denied their seats in the assembly of the
Council of Europe.
The performance of the Turkish economy improved significantly in the first two years after the military intervention. The new regime saw to it that the economic stabilization program introduced by Demirel was implemented under the direction of Özal, o
ne of the few members of the former government retained after the coup. Austerity measures were strictly enforced, bringing the inflation rate down to 30 percent in 1982. Disagreement developed within the government, however, over the strict monetarist po
licies promoted by Özal, which were seen in some quarters as running counter to Kemalist principles. Özal was forced to resign as minister of state in July 1982, when the country's largest money broker, the Kastelli Bank, collapsed.
Data as of January 1995