Gen. Kenan Evren, the head of Turkey's new junta, announced today that the military would not return power to civilians until the Turkish constitution is reformed to ensure a "healthy functioning of the democratic order" that would eliminate the need for future military intervention.
In his first press conference since heading the bloodless coup d'etat last week, Gen. Evren promised that a new Cabinet, working under him and his fellow generals, would be appointed by the end of the week. He also said that a provisional new constitution would be drafted and that a constituent assembly would be formed to redraft the nation's constitution. However, he gave no date for establishing the assembly.
[Turkish troops, in a crackdown on leftist intellectuals and professional Tuesday swept through every major technical association in the capital, arresting workers and carrying away records, The Associated Press reported. Left-leaning officials in Ankara were also arrested, according to witnesses.]
"A democratic, social, legal order that is responsible, effective, respectful of the rights of the citizen and capable of functioning will be established," Gen. Evren said with four fellow military men in the junta flanking him. "The arrangements to this effect will be worked out in a short time in stages."
As he had before in military communiques -- Evren said that his military government would maintain continuity in both Turkey's foreign and economic policies, a gester clearly meant to appease Turkey's worried Western allies.
Evren, the Turkish armed forces' chief of staff, insisted that the military takeover last Friday "was not a coup d'etat as described in the history books" but "an operation carried out to remove the threat to our democracy."
He said that he and his fellow generals reluctantly decided to intervene in the government after the nation's politicians repeatedly ignored the increasingly anarchic polarization of Turkey between extremist groups determined to undermine the principles of Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic in 1923 and the man whose ideals are the cornerstone of the state.
Citing the violence between extremists of the left and right increasingly tearing the country apart and the revival of Moslem fundamentalism, which Ataturk's secularism sought to curb, Evren blamed Turkey's now jailed politicians with leaving the armed forces no alternative but to take over the government in defense of the state.
"Neither the institutions, nor the political parties have taken the trouble of confronting these acts," Evren said.
He underlined that the Turkish military high command, which considered itself the ultimate guarantor of Ataturk's ideals, had repeatedly warned the politicians that action to reverse the deterioration of the state was imperative.
"After all warnings remained unheeded, the Turkish armed forces, as a last resort, carried out the duty entrusted to them by Ataturk's legacy as well as by relevant laws," he said. "This is an operation to defend and project the republic."
Gen. Evren left no doubt that before he turned over the government to civilians again, the constitution and laws of the state would be redrafted to provide future governments with the powers to rule the country effecively and justly.
The present Turkish constitution, drafted after the military overthrew and executed the late prime minister Adnan Menderes in 1960, purposely sought to dilute the powers of the government as a reaction to Menderes' own propensity to usurp the powers of state. This time, the military seems prepared to strengthen rather than weaken the government's powers.
"The National Security Council is determined to remove all obstacles which hinder the healthy functioning of the democratic order and regime so far in a way to avoid forever the need for such [military] intervention," Gen. Evren said.
The Turkish military commander promised that the courts would be strengthened and that their penal code would be modified to increase punishment for terrorism and anarchy. Similarly, the school system and the labor unions, where extremism had flourished in recent years, would be restructured so that "anarchy will not be permitted and prosper," he said.
In answer to questions from several hundred journalists who gathered in the Turkish prime minister's Cabinet room for the press conference today, the general denied that he or any of his immediate circles in the military had consulted with the U.S. government before launching their coup d'etat. He said that to his knowledge none of his officers had told the Americans of their intentions prior to the coup's beginning early Friday morning.
Evren also said that the country's leading politicians were not being imprisoned but held for their own protection. He cited efforts by irate citizens after a similar coup in 1971 to lynch the politicians. He said that as soon as it was safe, the politicians would be allowed to return home, providing no criminal charges were pending against them.