ANKARA: A declaration about an artificial waterway project from retired navy chiefs is not a coup threat, according to 74 percent of people who were polled on the issue.
More than 100 admirals wrote an open letter to the government earlier this month about Kanal Istanbul, which will connect the Black Sea north of Istanbul to the Marmara Sea to the south and is estimated to cost in excess of $9 billion.
While the government says it will ease traffic on the Bosporus Strait, the admirals said it would lead to the loss of Turkey’s absolute sovereignty over the status of its own straits.
They also said that the government’s questioning of the Montreux Convention, an international treaty on passage between the Mediterranean and Black Seas, was not in Turkey’s national interests.
The open letter sparked fury in government circles and accusations that the retired admirals were threatening a coup.
But the survey results painted a different picture. Of the 1,515 people polled in 12 provinces, 74 percent said the country was not facing a coup risk that could be triggered by the declaration.
The survey, from the prestigious Istanbul Economic Research firm, was carried out between April 5 and 7.
Turkish authorities launched an inspection into the Turkish Retired Army Officers Association, which said it did not condemn the declaration, in contrast to the 300 other NGOs that did.
Upon the order of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, authorities are reportedly examining changes to the current regulations for taking back the signatories’ military ranks and stripping them of benefits like public housing and personal security guards.
Also on the government’s punishment agenda is cancelling signatories’ diplomatic passports and denying them use of a military officers’ club, which has been a prestigious and elite meeting point for decades.
Some signatories have been in police custody for eight days under the ongoing investigation as they are charged of “committing crime against the security of the state and the constitutional order,” while a further four were called to testify at the Ankara Security Directorate on Monday.
Erdogan accused the signatories of evoking a “militaristic tone” in their phrasing, such as “otherwise” and “glorious Turkish nation,” while the timing of the declaration’s release also caused consternation in pro-government circles.
The duration of the Montreux Convention has been extended every five years since 1956, and this year marks the end of a five-year term. It will be extended until 2026, on Nov. 9, if parties express no single objection or launch a new deal.
Erdogan, under a presidential decree, has the authority to withdraw the country from any international treaty.
In the same survey, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) saw its vote share decrease to 36.1 percent, followed by the main opposition Republican People's Party at 23.3 percent, the Good Party at 15.3 percent, and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) at 11.3 percent. The AKP’s ally, the Nationalist Movement Party, stays below the 10 percent election threshold level if a general election were to take place this Sunday.