With the approach of World War II, foreign affairs assumed greater importance. An alliance with Britain and France (Oct. 19, 1939) was not implemented because of Germany's early victories. After Germany's invasion of Russia (June 1941), there was popular support for an alliance with Germany, which seemed to offer prospects of realizing old Pan-Turkish aims. Although a nonaggression pact was signed with Germany (June 18, 1941), Turkey clung to neutrality until an Axis defeat became inevitable; it entered the war on the Allied side on Feb. 23, 1945. The great expansion of Soviet power exposed Turkey in June 1945 to Soviet demands for control over the Straits and for the cession of territory in eastern Asia Minor. It was also suggested that a large area of northeastern Anatolia be ceded to Soviet Georgia. This caused Turkey to seek and receive U.S. assistance; U.S. military aid began in 1947 (providing the basis for a large and continuing flow of military aid), and economic assistance began in 1948.
From a split within the RPP, the Democrat Party (DP) was founded in 1946 and immediately gathered support. Despite government interference, the DP won 61 seats in the 1946 general election. Some elements in the RPP, led by the prime minister Recep Peker (served 1946-47), wished to suppress the DP, but they were prevented by Inönü. In his declaration of July 12, 1947, Inönü stated that the logic of a multiparty system implied the possibility of a change of government. Prophetically, he renounced the title of "National Unchangeable Leader," which had been conferred upon him in 1938. Peker resigned and was succeeded by more liberal prime ministers in Hasan Saka (1947-49) and Semseddin Günaltay (1949-50). Other restrictions on political freedom, including press censorship, were relaxed. The first mass-circulation, independent newspapers were established during the period. The formation of trade unions was permitted in 1947, although unions were not given the right to strike until 1963. Other political parties were established, including the conservative National Party (1948); socialist and communist activities, however, were severely repressed.
The DP won a massive victory in the 1950 elections, claiming 54 percent of the vote and 396 out of 487 seats. The RPP won 68 seats; the National Party, 1. The DP victory has been attributed variously to American influence. Perhaps the ultimate reason, however, was simply that in 27 years the RPP had made too many enemies.
The DP had relaxed some of the secularist policies of pure Kemalism, following in the steps of the RPP in the years 1945-49. Religious instruction in schools had been extended and the organization of religious schools permitted. Arabic had been reinstated for the call to prayer, and radio readings of the Qur`an had been allowed. These, however, were modest concessions in themselves, and the Democrats had clearly demonstrated their unwillingness to tolerate religious influence in politics by suppressing the activities of dervish orders in 1950-52.
A shortage of foreign exchange limited the purchase of essential materials and parts, which handicapped industry. After a sudden favourable surge in the early 1950s, the international balance of trade moved steadily against Turkey. Inflation, which averaged 15 percent or more annually, became a serious problem. The government attempted unsuccessfully to control prices through legislation, but its policies of continually rising public expenditure worsened inflation. . In 1953 much of the property of the RPP was confiscated, forcing the closure of the People's Houses. The RPP newspaper presses in Ankara were seized. In 1954 the National Party was dissolved because of its opposition to Kemalist principles.
Laws passed in 1954 provided for heavy fines on journalists who were thought to have damaged the prestige of the state or the law; several prominent journalists were prosecuted under this law, which was made more severe in 1956, while other laws substantially abridged the independence of civil servants (including university teachers) and judges. In 1955 critics within the DP were expelled; these critics subsequently formed the Freedom Party, which in 1958 merged with the RPP. In 1956 limitations were placed upon public meetings.
RPP attacks became more bitter, and the government's response stronger. In April 1960 the government ordered the army to prevent Inönü from campaigning in Kayseri and formed a committee to investigate the affairs of the RPP. It was widely believed that the government's next action would be to close the RPP. Student demonstrations followed, and martial law was declared on April 28. The army had been brought directly into the political arena.
Relatively neglected from 1923 to 1939, the army had undergone a rapid expansion during World War II and, after the war, had been extensively modernized with the aid of U.S. advisers. Many officers feared that the DP threatened the principles of the secular, progressive Kemalist state. Some younger officers saw the army as the direct instrument of unity and reform. On May 3, 1960, the commander of the land forces, General Cemal Gürsel, demanded political reforms and resigned when his demands were refused. On May 27 the army acted; an almost bloodless coup was carried out by officers and cadets from the Istanbul and Ankara war colleges. The leaders established a 38-man National Unity Committee with Gürsel as chairman. The Democrat leaders were imprisoned.
The main work of the National Unity Committee was to destroy the DP and to prepare a new constitution. Substantial purges took place--5,000 officers, including 235 of the 260 generals, were dismissed or retired; 147 university teachers left their jobs; and 55 wealthy landowners were banished from eastern Anatolia, their lands confiscated. The DP was abolished (September 1960), and many Democrats were brought to trial at Yassi Ada on charges of corruption, unconstitutional rule, and high treason. Of 601 tried, 464 were found guilty. Three former ministers, including Menderes, were executed; 12 others, including Bayar, had their death sentences commuted to life imprisonment.
Two projected coups had been foiled in February 1962 and May 1963. Members of a secret society within the army--the Young Kemalists--were arrested in April 1963. Criticism of the 1960 revolution was made illegal in 1962.
The army delivered a warning to the government in March 1970 and a year later forced Demirel's resignation. During the next two years Turkey was ruled by supraparty coalitions of conservative politicians and technocrats who governed with the support of the army and were primarily concerned with restoring law and order. Martial law was established in several provinces and was not completely lifted until September 1973. Political parties, including the WPT and the Islamic-based National Order Party (NOP), were shut down; and the constitution was amended to limit personal freedoms.
The economy was seriously weakened by a rise in world oil prices and a fall in remittances from Turkish workers abroad. Ecevit resigned in 1979, and Demirel formed a minority JP government that announced a major new economic recovery program.
On Sept. 12, 1980, the senior command of the army, led by General Kenan Evren, carried out a bloodless coup, the third army intervention in 20 years. The leading politicians were arrested, and parliament, political parties, and trade unions were dissolved. A five-member National Security Council took control, suspending the constitution and implementing a provisional constitution that gave almost unlimited power to military commanders. Martial law, which had been established in a number of provinces in 1979, was extended throughout Turkey, and a major security operation was launched to eradicate "terrorism". There followed armed clashes, thousands of arrests, imprisonment, torture, and executions, but political violence by opponents of the government was greatly reduced.
As it had been in 1971, the army's intervention was prompted by disgust at the failure of the politicians to control violence, fear of the Islamic upsurge, concern at the spread of guerrilla warfare in Kurdistan, and renewed worries that the army might become controlled by the government. The army was determined not only to restore order but also to undertake a thorough reform of the political system [to its favor] once and for all.
A new constitution, modeled on the French constitution of 1958, was approved by referendum in 1982. It provided for a strong president (elected for a seven-year term) who appointed the prime minister and senior judges and could dismiss parliament and declare a state of emergency. A unicameral parliament replaced the bicameral experiment of 1961, and--in an effort to reduce the influence of smaller parties--no party polling less than 10 percent of the votes cast was to receive seats in parliament. There were also close controls over political parties, the press, and trade unions.
The first elections under the new constitution were held in 1983 and were a disappointment to the army, which had intended that two parties--the centre-right National Democratic Party (NDP) and the centre-left Populist Party (PP)--should dominate the new parliament. Instead, a third party, the Motherland Party (MP), emerged as the clear winner, gaining more than half of the seats. The MP, a heterogeneous coalition of liberal, nationalist, social democratic, and Islamic groups, owed its success to the unwillingness of Turks to accept the army's prescription for government and to the reputation of its leader, Turgut Özal. Özal was considered an authority on economic issues; he had been the author of the JP's economic reform package of 1980 and had been responsible for the successful stabilization program carried out after the army intervention.
Under Özal's leadership the MP ruled Turkey until 1991. From 1983 to 1987 its economic policies--based on removing state controls, encouraging foreign trade, and relying on free-market principles--had considerable success, helped by the fall in world oil prices and by opportunities created by the Iran-Iraq War. The inflation rate fell, and economic growth was strong. After 1987, however, the economic situation deteriorated as a result of the world recession of the late 1980s and early '90s and the government's failure to stem the rising budget deficit, largely the consequence of the continued burden of inefficient, heavily subsidized state industries. Inflation and unemployment rose, and a large foreign-trade deficit developed.
The Kurdish Conflict
Following major social changes associated with the commercialization of agriculture since the 1950s, there had been outbreaks of violence in Kurdistan during the 1970s, generally linked with the activities of the revolutionary left. After 1980, however, the disturbances took on a specifically Kurdish character. Several groups emerged, espousing demands ranging from freedom of cultural expression to outright independence; some turned to violence to advance their cause. The most important of these groups was the Kurdish Workers' Party (Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan [PKK]) led by Abdullah Öcalan. The PKK, a leftist group founded in 1978 that in 1983 began a campaign from bases in Iraq, sought an independent Kurdish state, although it offered to accept full autonomy. The PKK, with between 5,000 and 10,000 armed fighters, directed attacks against government property, government officials, Turks living in the Kurdish regions, Kurds accused of collaborating with the government, foreigners, and Turkish diplomatic missions abroad. The PKK received support from Syria and from Kurds living abroad.
From 1991 the existence of so-called safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan--established following the Persian Gulf War and protected mainly by U.S. and British forces--provided new bases for PKK operations. Turkish governments sought to deal with the Kurdish problem by granting cultural concessions in 1991 and limited autonomy in 1993. Kurdish political parties, however, remained forbidden. The main government effort remained the military suppression of the uprising; martial law was imposed, and increasing numbers of troops and security forces were committed to the task. By 1993 the total number of security forces involved in the struggle in southeastern Turkey was about 200,000.
Turkish forces also attacked PKK bases in Iraq, first from the air and then with ground forces; in an operation in late 1992 about 20,000 Turkish troops entered the safe havens, and in 1995 some 35,000 were employed in a similar campaign.
After Özal's death in 1993, Demirel was elected president. Tansu Çiller, [born in 1946 to an affluent family in Istanbul, where she later graduated from the University of Bosporus. At the age of 17 she had married a man whom she persuaded to take her surname. It was during her tenure as economics minister that government debt soared, inflation climbed to 65%, and the country suffered a downgrading of its international credit rating] a liberal economist, became Turkey's first woman prime minister. Çiller emphasized more rapid economic privatization and closer links with the European Union. The coalition government collapsed in September 1995 when the SDPP withdrew from the government after protracted internal divisions. Çiller failed to form a new coalition and called an election for December 1995.
The most striking feature of the 1995 election was the extent of support for the WP, which emerged as the largest single party with about one-fifth of the vote. The political success of the WP, led by Necmettin Erbakan, reflected the increasing role of Islam in Turkish life during the 1980s and '90s, as evidenced by changes in dress and appearance, segregation of the sexes, the growth of Islamic schools and banks, and support for Sufi orders. Support for the WP came not only from the smaller towns but also from major cities, where the WP drew support from the secular left parties. The WP stood for a greater role for Islam in public life, state-directed economic expansion, and a turning away from Europe and the West toward the Islamic countries of the Middle East. Despite its electoral success, the WP was unable to find a coalition partner to form a government, and in March 1996 a coalition government of the MP and TPP was formed, although it was dependent on voting support from the centre left. Yilmaz and Çiller agreed to share the prime ministership, with Yilmaz taking first turn in 1996, but immediately the coalition failed. WP led by Erbakan took charge, but immediately was forced down by the Army.