Erdogan Government Submits Bill to Curtail Army Power

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s government submitted a bill to parliament today to amend the military charter, including Article 35, which was used by the army as a legal excuse to defend past coups.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag told reporters in Ankara that the bill would be approved in October after the legislature’s summer recess. It’s the latest move by the Islamist-rooted government to end the military’s decades-old influence over politics.

The army, which has pressured four governments out of power since 1960, had argued Article 35 empowers it to act against any threat. The article, without elaborating, says the duty of the armed forces is to defend and protect the Turkish homeland and the Republic of Turkey as defined in the charter.

The proposed amendment says the duty of the military is to defend Turkey against threats and dangers that come from abroad, strengthen its force as a deterrent and carry out missions abroad approved by Parliament.

The bill also amends Article 43 of the charter to clearly state that members of the Armed Forces can’t engage in political activities. It empowers Cabinet to coordinate troops used in the suppression of civil disturbances instead of the General Staff headquarters and the Interior Ministry.

Check on Military

Separately, the bill requires approval of the president for High Military Council decisions about promotions or dismissals before they go into force, a measure that will place a civilian check on military decisions.

Erdogan’s government has jailed hundreds of retired and serving officers, including dozens of generals, for plotting to overthrow his government in 2003, as well as generals who forced the resignation of the country’s first Islamist prime minister in 1997.

Today’s announcement follows several weeks of protests in Istanbul, Ankara and other cities, which Erdogan has blamed on the secularist main opposition party, extremists and financial speculators.

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