The Turkish 'Model' of Civil-Military Relations

International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON) Vol. 11 No. 3, 727–750 (2013)

Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10/2013

24 Pages Posted: 30 Apr 2013 Last revised: 25 Jan 2016

See all articles by Ozan O. Varol

Ozan O. Varol

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: April 29, 2013


As Egypt underwent a tumultuous military-led transition from autocracy to democracy beginning in 2011, a chorus of commentators advocated a “Turkish model” for civil-military relations in Egypt’s nascent democracy. That term is frequently invoked in both popular and academic discourse, but rarely defined. This Article takes up the task of giving content to that elusive phrase. It begins by analyzing the composition, structure, and objectives of the Turkish military beginning with the Ottoman Empire. It then turns to May 1960, when the Turkish military staged its first direct intervention in republican politics by toppling an authoritarian government and installing democratically elected leaders after seventeen months of interim military rule. The Article shows that the military played a crucial role in Turkish modernization and democratization during the coup and in its immediate aftermath - a role that has been largely obscured by the current portrayal of the Turkish military as a hegemonic and repressive institution. The Article then explores why, following its initial democratization role after the 1960 coup, the military failed to retreat to the barracks and began to present impediments to democracy. It argues that the plethora of counter-majoritarian institutions established in the 1961 Constitution, drafted under military supervision following the 1960 coup, sparked frequent power vacuums in Turkey, prompting the military to stage political interventions to ensure stability. It further argues that the military’s focus on domestic policy matters with its institutionalization in the National Security Council in the 1961 Constitution ensnared the military in domestic disputes, providing an impetus for the military to stage further interventions. The Article then explains the recent exodus of the Turkish military from politics with the ascension to power of stable civilian governments and Turkey’s accession process to the European Union. It concludes by offering observations and lessons for other nations seeking to normalize their civil-military relations.

Keywords: Turkey, Egypt, Turkish model, military, civil-military, constitution

Suggested Citation

Varol, Ozan O., The Turkish 'Model' of Civil-Military Relations (April 29, 2013). International Journal of Constitutional Law (I-CON) Vol. 11 No. 3, 727–750 (2013), Lewis & Clark Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 10/2013, Available at SSRN:

Ozan O. Varol (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN

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