Turkey binds up wounds of the country’s democracy in the anniversary of the Republic’s first military coup staged 55 years ago on May 27, 1960 and remembers the military trial and execution of Turkey’s first democratically elected prime minister Adnan Menderes, the leader of the Democratic Party.
The coup was orchestrated by a group of 37 young Turkish military officers who named themselves as “The Committee of National Union.” They had acted outside the Turkish General Staff’s chain of command by their own initiative and ultimately persuaded Cemal Gursel, the then-Commander of Land Forces, to lead the coup.
Gursel became president following the coup of May 27 which left a precedent for the other coup leaders such as Kenan Evren, the leader of 1980 military coup who also became a president following the coup.
The coup leaders arrested then-president Celal Bayar, Prime Minister Adnan Menderes, prominent politicians of the Democratic Party and the Chief of General Staff, Rustu Erdelhun.
The junta had also forced 235 generals and more than 3,000 military officers to retirement, removed more than 500 judges and public prosecutors and 1,400 university faculty members from their positions.
The coup administration had also abolished the constitution dating back to 1920s and dissolved the parliament.
Turkey had been under the management of successive one-party rule governments dominated by Republican People’s Party (CHP) until the main opposition Democratic Party, a moderately right-wing party, overwhelmingly won Turkey’s first democratically held election in 1950.
On May 14 of 1950, the leader of the Democratic Party Adnan Menderes had become the prime minister. Menderes and the party had won three consecutive elections against the CHP until the military coup of May 27 in 1960.
Menderes, minister of foreign affairs Fatin Rustu Zorlu and minister of finance Hasan Polatkan had been tried by a military court appointed by the junta regime in Yassiada, located in the Sea of Marmara, between October 1960 and September 1961. The politicians were charged with “high treason, misuse of public funds and abrogation of the constitution.”
The tribunals ended with the execution of the three civilian leaders in September 1961 at the Island of Imrali in the Sea of Marmara.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu had spoken about the coup of May 27 during the groundbreaking ceremony of the “Islands of Democracy and Freedom” project on May 14 which has been developed in Yassiada.
Davutoglu said, “If we are able to go elections as the manifestation of national will freely, its heroes are not us who are now making speeches to people on the topic but Adnan Menderes and his friends who defended democracy even when he was walking into the gallows.”
The governing Justice and Development Party (AK Party) considers the Democratic Party of 1950s as its predecessor, not only chronologically but also in terms of political thinking and action planning.
Both parties mostly have liberal and moderate conservative political stances.