As early as April 18, so before the unexpected Gezi riots took everyone by surprise, a new protocol was signed between the Interior Ministry and the General Staff that gives the authority to governors to call for military units in the event of social incidents in a province.
A similar law (EMASYA) was passed in 1997 that empowered the military to intervene in domestic issues on its own initiative. In 2010, the AKP managed to repeal this protocol.
Reigning in the military and administering new regulations in terms of civil-military relations has been one of the most important issues on the AKP’s agenda since they came to power. This is because the overly sensitive military establishment has always been the guarantor of the secular order in Turkey and the military have always eyed the AKP with suspicion due to their Islamic identity as a party. Beyond this specific Turkish context, AKP’s regulation of civil-military relations has been their most positive impact on furthering democracy in Turkey.
However, it is becoming more clear that this move was carried out not necessarily in the name of a democratic society, but because the military were a threat to the AKP. The new protocol which utilises the strength of the military, but ties it completely to the Ministry of the Interior is a signal of what is to come. If the AKP have it their way that is.
According to the daily newspaper Milliyet, military units will intervene in social incidents upon a written demand from governors. In cases of emergency, the governors will be able to make an oral demand. The duration that military units will serve to quell incidents in a province will be set by the governor by taking in the views of the military commander into consideration*.
This protocol has already been put to use: The Gendarmerie were called in to assist riot police on the 16th of June, the day after Gezi Park was taken by force.
The goal of EMASYA was to bolster the military tutelage regime under the disguise of democracy in Turkey. The new law was used for the first time to aid the government put down a peaceful and legitimate democratic protest. Although legal experts say the two protocols are not the same and should not be viewed in the same light, their underlying reason of existence seem rather similar to me.
* The AKP have a rigid hierarchy where Erdoğan has the loudest singular voice. Beyond that, the AKP do not tend to seek advice or look for a consensus. Thus, the unbinding statement of ‘taking advice’ does not change the distinct possibility that the military could potentially stay as long as the Mayor (and in reality Erdoğan) wants them to stay.