What You Need to Know About Turkey's Political Landscape

Friday, July 15, 2016
What You Need to Know About Turkey's Political Landscape
Turkish military block access to the Bosphorus bridge, which links the city's European and Asian sides, in Istanbul, Turkey, July 15, 2016.

Several media reports say that the Turkish military is the claiming to have taken over government; and, separately, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim says that a group within the military is engaged in a coup attempt.

With an attempted coup underway in Turkey, here's a look at the fraught political landscape of the country that is often called "the bridge between East and West."

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Who's in Charge?

If a coup is indeed underway, it would be the fourth time in Turkey's modern history that the military has seized power.

It would also mean that military officers have supplanted President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the democratically elected president of the country who has ruled over the country as Prime Minister and later president since 2003.

What Role Has the Military Played in the Past?

The Turkish military has a history of seizing power when it feels that the country is heading in a wrong direction.

Previous coups in 1960, 1971 and 1980 saw the military -- the second largest among NATO countries, after the U.S. -- seize power or affect change in one way or another.

What Is the Security Situation in Turkey Like?

Throughout the 2000s, Turkey was seen as a stable, prosperous country. Tourism boomed, as foreigners perceived the country to be a safe place to gain exposure to Middle Eastern culture and history.

However, in the past few years, several attacks have taken place throughout the country, largely perpetrated by Islamic and Kurdish extremists.

Just last month, an attack at the main airport in Istanbul -- the country's most famous city -- left more than 40 people dead. The Islamic State was suspected to be behind the attack.

What Are Relations With the U.S. Like?

Turkey's location -- wedged between the Middle East and Europe -- lets it wield considerable influence, and the country is a major U.S. ally. It has been a NATO ally since 1952.

It is arguably the most important ally that the U.S. has in the fight against the Islamic State in Syria, and is home to Incirlik Air Base.

Earlier this year, the U.S. government ordered the families of U.S. military personnel to leave the base -- from where the U.S. launches strikes in Syria. Thousands of U.S. personnel are based in the country.

However, President Erdogan draws the ire of many in the U.S. During a visit to Washington, D.C., in April, scuffles broke out at a think tank in Washington where the leader was visiting.

The U.S. also provides refuge to Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Turkish cleric living in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania. President Erdogan has accused Gulen of leading a parallel, shadow state.

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