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Politics and Foreign Relations in the 1960s

The new bicameral legislature elected General Gürsel president of the republic. On taking office, he asked seventy-eight-year-old former President Inönü to form a government. Inönü, who had first been named prime minister by Atatürk in 1923, attempted to reach an agreement with the AP for a coalition in which that party would share an equal number of cabinet posts with the CHP, but party leaders failed to resolve their differences concerning amnesty for those convicted in the Yassiada trials. President Gürsel and General Cevdet Sunay, chief of the General Staff, warned that the irresponsibility of some legislators could provoke renewed military intervention in politics. In February 1962, a group of army officers staged a revolt in Ankara in protest of the role of the AP in government-proposed amnesty plans. The uprising was quickly suppressed, and suspected sympathizers in the officer corps were purged. Inönü subsequently introduced legislation granting amnesty to the officers involved in the revolt. In October 283 of those who had been convicted at Yassiada were given executive clemency on the recommendation of the assembly and freed. Another two years elapsed before former President Bayar and the remaining prisoners were released.

The AP made such significant gains in the 1964 local elections that Inönü stepped down as prime minister. After unsuccessful attempts by the AP and the CHP to form a government, an interim administration was appointed to serve until the October 1965 general election. Voters in that election gave the AP a clear majority in the Grand National Assembly. The vote allowed the new prime minister, forty-four-year-old Süleyman Demirel, to form a single-party government and claim a popular mandate for his legislative program. An engineer and former head of the National Water Authority, Demirel was a onetime protégé of Menderes. Although Demirel cultivated a pragmatic and technocratic image for the young party, the AP inherited the DP's identification with right-wing populism and catered to the same broadly based constituency. The party attracted support from the business community and from artisans and shopkeepers, but its real strength lay in the peasantry and in the large number of workers who had recently arrived in the cities from the countryside. Although it never disavowed the principle of secularism enshrined in Kemalism, the AP promoted tolerance of the open expression of the traditional Islam that appealed to many in these latter groups. While accepting a large role for state enterprises in a mixed economy, the AP also encouraged the development of a stronger private sector than had been allowed previously and was receptive to foreign investment in Turkey.

Although Demirel increased defense spending and took a hard line on law-and-order issues, military leaders remained suspicious of his party because of its roots in the DP. Demirel seemed to improve his standing among them by supporting the successful presidential candidacy of General Sunay when Gürsel died in office in 1966, but objections by the military subsequently forced the prime minister to withdraw legislation that would have restored full political rights to surviving former DP leaders. Enactment of other legislation was also hampered by growing factional splits in the AP. Representing the party's business-oriented liberal wing, Demirel urged greater reliance on a market economy. He was opposed on some issues and prodded on others by a traditionalist wing that was socially conservative, more agrarian in its orientation, and had ties to the Islamic movement.

Following the CHP's defeat in the 1965 general election, that party engaged in an internal debate to determine its position in the left-right continuum. When forty-year-old Bülent Ecevit succeeded Inönü as party leader the following year, he sought to identify the CHP with the social democratic parties of Western Europe. The party platform favored state-directed investment over private investment and recommended limits on foreign participation in the Turkish economy. It also called for rapid expansion of public services financed by taxation that would restrict the growth of private incomes. Ecevit emphasized the CHP's dedication to maintaining political secularism in contrast to the AP's leniency in the face of a revival of religious influence. While promising to adhere to Turkey's defense commitments, he insisted on a more self-reliant foreign policy that included efforts to improve bilateral relations with the Soviet Union.

As party leader, Ecevit attempted to transform the CHP from an elitist party seeking to guide the nation from above into a mass movement involving a broadly based constituency in the political process. Ecevit's socialist rhetoric was compatible with the Kemalist principles of state direction of the economy, but the shift to the left he inaugurated caused dissension in the party. In 1967 forty-five CHP deputies broke away to form a centrist party that won nearly 7 percent of the vote in the October 1969 general election. Both major parties lost votes, but right-of-center parties, led by the AP, outpolled the CHP and the small left-wing parties by nearly two to one, and the AP was able to increase its Grand National Assembly majority by sixteen seats. To some observers, the election results indicated a polarization of Turkish politics that would pull the AP and CHP in opposite directions and aggravate political extremism.

The extreme left was represented in the Grand National Assembly during the 1960s by the Turkish Workers' Party (TWP). Its platform called for the redistribution of land, nationalization of industry and financial institutions, and the exclusion of foreign capital, and urged closer cooperation with the Soviet Union. The party attracted the support of only a small number of trade unionists and leftist intellectuals. Although it had won fifteen seats in the 1961 election, its share of the vote in 1965 and 1969 averaged less than 3 percent. Of greater consequence in the 1960s--and for the future--was the party of the extreme right led by Alparslan Türkes, one of the architects of the 1960 coup. Türkes had been among those officers ousted from the CNU for opposing the restoration of democratic institutions. He subsequently resigned from the army and in 1965 took control of the Republican Peasants' Nation Party, later the MHP. Türkes came to personify the ultranationalistic and authoritarian nature of his party. Labeled by some as fascist, the MHP demanded strong state action to maintain order and manage the economy. Although sympathetic to private ownership, the party was hostile toward capitalism and foreign investment. Essentially secularist, the MHP nonetheless regarded Islam as one of the pillars of the Turkish state, and Türkes incorporated references to religion into his nationalist platform.

Türkes's party had won 14 percent of the vote and fifty-four seats in the 1961 election, but electoral support plummeted to under 3 percent in 1965, when many marginal rightist voters switched to the AP. In 1969 the MHP was reduced to a single seat in the Grand National Assembly; however, Türkes's inflammatory rhetoric and confrontational tactics gave the party a higher profile than its strength at the polls alone would have justified. He organized the party on military lines and indoctrinated party activists, imposing strict discipline on them. The party's youth movement included a paramilitary arm, the "Gray Wolves," whose members disrupted left-wing student activities, initiated physical attacks on political opponents, and retaliated for assaults on MHP members. MHP-incited violence escalated in the late 1960s and set the tone for the volatile political atmosphere of the 1970s.

Turkey's links to the United States grew rapidly in the aftermath of World War II. Turkey took a resolutely pro-Western stance as the Cold War developed in the late 1940s and, in 1950, sent an infantry brigade to the Korean Peninsula to serve under UN command there. The pattern of close bilateral ties with the United States that characterized postwar Turkish foreign relations began to take shape with an agreement signed in Ankara in September 1947 implementing a policy formulated by President Harry S Truman the previous March. Known as the Truman Doctrine, the president's policy declaration spelled out United States intentions to guarantee the security of Turkey and Greece. Truman won approval from the United States Congress for an initial appropriation of US$400 million to aid both countries. Congress also authorized United States civilian and military personnel to assist in economic reconstruction and development and to provide military training. Turkey subsequently participated in the United States-sponsored European Recovery Program (Marshall Plan). Turkey also was admitted to membership in the Council of Europe and in 1959 applied for association with the European Community (EC), later called the European Union (EU--see Glossary). Set aside after the 1960 coup, Turkey's application finally was approved in 1964.

Turkey was admitted to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO--see Glossary) in 1952, and in 1955 joined with Britain, Iran, Iraq, and Pakistan in the Baghdad Pact, a multilateral defense agreement that became the Central Treaty Organization (CENTO) after the overthrow of the Iraqi monarchy in 1958. Turkey played a vital diplomatic and strategic role as the bridge between the NATO and CENTO alliance systems. The headquarters of NATO's Allied Land Forces Southeastern Europe (LANDSOUTHEAST) was established at Izmir. In addition, operational bases near Adana were developed for NATO purposes. A 1954 military facilities agreement with the United States permitted the opening of other NATO installations and the stationing of United States forces in Turkey. Headquarters for CENTO were moved to Ankara when Iraq withdrew from the alliance.

Turkish participation in NATO was complicated by a regional dispute between Turkey and Greece involving the status of the island of Cyprus, until 1960 a British crown colony. The Greek-speaking Cypriots sought an end to British rule and many favored enosis (union) with Greece. Fearing discrimination and the loss of identity, the Turkish-speaking minority countered with proposals for partition of the island between the two ethnic communities. Conflict between the two communities led to major crises in 1964 and again in 1967, during which Turkey and Greece--both members of NATO--reached the verge of war.

Crisis in Turkish Democracy

The Demirel government's majority in the Grand National Assembly gradually dissipated after the 1969 general election as factions within the circle of its initial supporters regrouped in new political constellations. In 1970 three small rightist parties that had usually cooperated with the government merged as the National Salvation Party (Milli Selamet Partisi--MSP), an explicitly Islamic-oriented party that imposed politically compromising demands on Demirel as the price of their continued support. Some former AP members deserted the AP in 1971 to form the more right-wing Democratic Party. Other, more liberal AP members, dissatisfied with Demirel's concessions to the right, defected from the party and sat as independents. As a result of these shifts, the Demirel government lost its parliamentary majority and, in the eyes of critics, forfeited its right to govern the country. Acts of politically motivated violence and terrorism escalated in frequency and intensity. Unrest was fueled in part by economic distress, perceptions of social inequities, and the slowness of reform, but protest was increasingly directed at Turkey's military and economic ties to the West.

Data as of January 1995

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