Top Turkish commanders to meet amid calls for civilian constitution

Turkey's strictly secular and politically powerful military is to convene its four-day annual Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting, headed by PM Erdoğan, on Wednesday.

Top Turkish commanders to meet amid calls for civilian constitution
Turkey's strictly secular and politically powerful military is to convene its four-day annual Supreme Military Council (YAŞ) meeting, headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Wednesday to discuss the promotions and retirements of generals and colonels.

This year's YAŞ meeting is to take place in the midst of preparations by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party), which won a landslide victory in early national elections held on July 22 for the second time since the November 2002 elections, to design a civilian constitution to replace the 1982 military-dictated one. Among expected changes to be made in the constitution is to open YAŞ decisions of promotions, retirements and expulsions to court rulings as was the case before the 1980 military coup.

Associate Professor Ümit Kardaş, a retired military judge, told Today's Zaman that both YAŞ decisions as well as the appointments of the Supreme Board of Prosecutor and Judges (HSYK), whose appointments are made by the president, should be open to court hearings if Turkey wants to install the supremacy of law.

Prime Minister Erdoğan and Defense Minister Vecdi Gönül have stated their reservations to all YAŞ decisions on grounds that YAŞ decisions should be open to court review.

Meanwhile, a statement was released by the Office of the Chief of General Staff on July 25 in an attempt to clarify the functions of YAŞ once again.

"Appointments of generals and admirals are not made during YAŞ meetings, contrary to public belief," it said.

The promotion of colonels, generals and admirals, the extension of terms of duty of generals and admirals and their retirements as well as other issues, such as the expulsion of officers due to disciplinary and immoral acts, are discussed at YAŞ meetings.

"In other words, YAŞ has neither the authority nor responsibility over appointments," said the statement.

The appointments of the chief of general staff, service commanders and appointments of other generals and admirals are made in line with principles envisaged in special laws adopted outside YAŞ activities, the General Staff statement said.

Under Article 117 of the Constitution, the chief of general staff is appointed by the president upon a proposal made by the Cabinet.

But the Cabinet has for the first time used this authority for Chief of General Staff Gen. Yaşar Büyükanıt just a day before the 2006 YAŞ meeting to dispel increased rumors that the government might state its objection to Büyükanıt's appointment due to his hawkish stance in areas concerning civilian authority.

In fact, the General Staff under Büyükanıt released a late-night e memorandum posted on its Web site on April 27 warning the government against electing Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül as president, which eventually triggered the early national elections.

General dispatching tanks expects promotion

Almost half of the officer corps will change billets as a result of new appointments and retirements following the YAŞ meeting.

Additionally, Turkish Air Forces and Naval Forces commanders will be replaced, while Gen. Büyükanıt will remain in his post for another year, as will Turkish Land Forces Commander Gen. İlker Başbuğ, who is expected to replace Büyükanıt as the new chief of general staff next year.

Navy Commander in Gölcük Adm. Mezaffer Metin Ataç and War Academies Commander Gen. Aydoğan Babaoğlu are expected to replace Adm. Yener Karahanoğlu and Gen. Faruk Cömert, respectively, as the new naval and air forces commanders.

Lt. Gen. Erdal Ceylanoğlu, commander of the Land Forces Inspection and Evalutaion Department and publicly known for his orders to dispatch tanks to Ankara's Sincan district in a show of force against the Islamic-rooted government last decade, and where a "Quds Night" meeting was held with the participation of senior Iranian diplomats that started the process of a postmodern coup forcing the the Islamic led-coalition government to resign in 1997, is among the lieutenant generals expecting to get promotion to the rank of full general.

Similarly, Lt. Gen. Ethem Erdağı, commander of the 3rd Army Corps in İstanbul who is currently being tried by a military court on corruption charges, is also among those speculated to be promoted to the full general.

1st Army Commander Gen. Fethi Remzi Tuncel, Commander of the Training and Doctrine Command Gen. Orhan Yöney and Commander of the Aegean Army Gen. Şükrü Sarıışık will retire, vacating three full general seats at the Turkish Land Forces Command that both Gen. Ceylanoğlu and Gen. Erdağı are competing to fill with five other lieutenant generals.

YAŞ decisions will become effective following acting President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's approval and by Aug. 30.

Today's Zaman
Güncelleme Tarihi: 30 Temmuz 2007, 13:00