restricted access 1. Introduction: Cases, Concepts, Political Actors, and Interests
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1  •  Introduction Cases, Concepts, Political Actors, and Interests On 27 April 1967, in his first public statement after taking over the Greek government, Colonel Papadopoulos claimed that the military had intervened to prevent the threat of anarchy. In a later interview, his colleague and one of the three leaders of the junta, Brigadier General Stylianos Pattakos, reiterated that the country had suffered from political instability and communist threat prior to the intervention.1 Similarly, in Turkey, when the armed forces took over the government on 12 September 1980, they announced that the military had done so because the state was not properly functioning, political parties were failing to take necessary measures, and the country was being driven to chaos.2 Even though the main reasons for these interventions were diverse, sections of the army in both instances perceived the country to be under threat, blamed the politicians, and claimed that they were saving the country from its own ills. Despite this similarity, however, the nature and subsequent developments of the interventions were strikingly different. One difference (among many) was the way the civilian elites responded to the interventions. In Greece, the junta was not supported by the majority of the elites. Theodore Couloumbis, a Greek professor who conducted more than 200 interviews with political leaders between 1971 and 1974, found that even the extreme rightists did not support the authoritarian regime. During his testimony before the US House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs, he stressed that “the preponderance of the Greek politicians, whether of left, center, or conservative orientations, find . . . themselves in strong opposition to the military regime.”3 Yet, notwithstanding this lack of support, the junta captured the government successfully and the military was able to rule almost unhindered for seven years. Lasting only for three years, the rule of the military in Turkey was com- 2  •  Between Military Rule and Democracy pletely different. The intervention obtained support from many quarters of Turkish society and gained immediate control of the country. Regarding his decision to participate in the 1983 military-­ led transition to democracy, Süleyman Demirel, a prominent Turkish politician and an opponent of the coup, explained, “Who was going to be behind us if we had opposed the coup? . . . In Turkey, the struggle for [democracy] is still not a goal shared by all.”4 Demirel’s words have relevance for understanding Turkish politics even today. Although the last overt coup was staged in 1980, the military controlled significant political decisions until recently. Alleged military conspiracies against the elected government led to highly controversial trials in 2008 and the imprisonment of senior ranking officers. However, the cases were believed to be based on fictitious evidence, and all suspects were released from prison within a few years. In retrials, the accused were acquitted from all charges, revealing the political nature of the first decisions. Indeed, the cases did not resolve many of the regime’s other problems and accentuated the deficiencies in the rule of law and human rights. As the conflict and polarization between the governing Justice and Development Party and the opposition forces continue, different meanings attributed to democracy hollow out the basis of the regime. While Turkey has persistently struggled with its democracy, Greece strengthened its democracy after the collapse of the colonels’ junta, and the armed forces were brought under civilian control. The majority of the population backed the fundamental principles of the regime, giving the impression that democracy was now unshakable. Yet, after the 2009 economic crisis , democracy destabilized again, as the radical left and the right posed new challenges. Under the government led by the Coalition of the Radical Left (SYRIZA), polarization among political parties and in society intensified. As in Turkey, different understandings of what democracy means began to clash, resulting not only in continuing economic turmoil but in political turmoil as well. As Turkey and Greece exemplify, when it comes to elite and public support , similarities and differences can be found across diverse cases of military interventions and democratic experiences. This book analyzes such parallels and investigates the origins of various types of authoritarian and democratic regimes in countries where the military is a significant political actor. Examining the roots of regimes where the military is one of the dominant actors necessarily entails analyzing the variation in the behavior of the armed forces. Thus, this book secondly inquires why the armed forces variously intervene in politics via short-­ lived coups d’état, establish or support longer-­ term authoritarian regimes, or...


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