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Europe

Will Turkey's political unity last?

media Ahmet, who drives a taxi in Ankara, was one of the pro-democracy demonstrators who confronted the rebel troops. Tony Cross/RFI

All of Turkey's MPs stood together in opposing the 15 July coup attempt and all support a purge of the organisation led by US-based cleric Fehtullah Gülen that is accused of being behind it. But will the political show of unity last?

On the night of Friday, 15 July, rebel troops were lined up on the bridge near Turkey's parliament, which stands opposite the nation’s military headquarters, planes bombed the parliament and thousands of pro-democracy demonstrators confronted the troops.

Taxi driver Ahmet was one of them.

“If they had allowed us, we would have gotten into the tanks," he recalls. "We would have! It was our duty to attack those two soldiers inside. But the lower ranks were not to blame. It was those generals ruling them. All the men we carried to Numune Hospital. We helped take them to hospital. It was such a tragedy. There's such a sorrow I feel, sorrow for the situation that our country is in.”

Bülent Tezcan, an MP for the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) of which he is the vice-president, was inside the parliament building.

Bulent Tezcan was among the MPs who held a special session in the Parliament as a sign of defiance on the night of the failed coup attempt. Tony Cross/RFI

He was among the MPs who went to parliament when they heard it was under attack to hold a special session as a sign of defiance.

“The parliament building was bombed seven times throughout the night," he explains. "First we had a session in general assembly chamber and after the bombing started we went to the shelters. We decided not to leave the parliament until morning.”

MPs from the opposition and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) stood together against the coup - quite a change, according to Tezcan.

 “There was a great unity of feeling there. Before we had fierce discussions and differences of opinion, sometimes there were fights in parliament. But that night all those MPs forgot their differences, they were hand in hand in a feeling of unity just as if they were soldiers on the battlefield.”

AKP MP Mehdi Eker, who’s also his party’s vice-president, was there, too, and was among the MPs who signed a declaration of support for democracy.

“The next day all the deputies and party leaders, all of them, signed this declaration and that solidarity is very important and now that solidarity is continuing,” he declares at the Ankara headquarters of his party.

With calls from the opposition to maintain the spirit of national unity, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan invited the leaders of the CHP and the right-wing nationalist National Movement Party (MHP) to a meeting with himself and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim last Monday.

Afterwards Erdogan announced that the parties would work on minor changes to the constitution, which Eker says will be designed to prevent further coup attempts.

Up until now the opposition has fought his plan to change to a presidential system.

So could that come up again now?

“I don’t think Mr Erdoğan will insist on this topic in this situation," says Tezcan. "I don’t think he will damage conciliation with a discussion of the system of government. The president of the republic may argue for a presidential regime, we defend parliamentary democracy. To have differences of opinion should not prevent dialogue, conciliation and working together.”

One party that was not invited to Erdogan’s meeting, was the Kurdish-based People’s Democratic Party (HDP), whose MPs had not been in parliament during the coup, although they signed the declaration against military takeoever.

The HDP should have been invited, says the CHP’s Tezcan, although he adds that they should dissociate themselves from “terrorism”, by which he means the guerrilla movement in the Kurdish-majority south-east.

Eker, who is a Kurd himself and represents Diyarbakir, which is at the heart of the army’s conflict with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, insists that the HDP will be included in future talks.

“We are talking with them as well, as long as they are firm in their stand any coup attempt and anti-democratic movement," he says. "They are elected … they are elected by the people. They are representing electors, so this is legitimate.”

The HDP fears that the other parties will form a nationalist bloc against peace with the Kurdish guerrillas.

CHP supporters are also worried that the post-coup purge could turn into a witch-hunt and there have already been cases of secular activists being accused of involvement in the Pennsylvania-based imams movement.

So Turkey’s political unity may prove more fragile than the major parties’ leaders are making out.

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