By Nick Danforth
On July 15, Turkey commemorated the anniversary of last year’s failed coup attempt with a newly declared “Democracy and National Unity” day. Yet, as many commentators noted, the Turkish government’s public commemorations also laid bare their country’s deepening authoritarianism and national division.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his allies have created a historical and political narrative surrounding last summer’s coup that is effective for being both unifying and divisive. Erdogan has used the commemorations to declare a long-awaited victory over Turkey’s secular elite and the Kemalist military establishment that kept them in power. But at the same time, he has also taken the opportunity to co-opt and Islamicize the symbols of Kemalist Turkey in order to consolidate his support among committed nationalists in the military and the population at large. Moving forward, Erdogan’s challenge will be to manage this new narrative — and its contradictions — in order to keep the right people unified and the right people divided. Turkey’s political future will depend on how well he succeeds in doing so.