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The struggle for Turkey

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  • #31
    May 30, 2007 -- Turkey's prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, today faced charges of allegedly insulting the country's constitutional court in a fresh clash between the Islamist-leaning government and secular authorities.

    The head of Turkey's highest judicial body, Tulay Tugcu, said comments made by Mr Erdogan appeared to question the impartiality of the court and exceeded "boundaries of respect."

    "The prime minister's remarks ignore the supremacy of law, contain threats, insults and hostility and expose our court as a target (for attack)," she told a rare news conference.

    Mr Erdogan yesterday said the court's decision to cancel a presidential vote earlier this month was a "disgrace to the justice system".
    Under Turkish law, it is a crime to insult state institutions, but as a member of parliament Mr Erdogan has immunity from prosecution.

    In an interview with NTV, Mr Erdogan said the court's ruling that 367 deputies must be present in parliament for a presidential election to be valid was "a disgrace" that showed the court to be politically biased.

    The court decision wrecked government efforts to have parliament elect foreign minister Abdullah Gul as Turkey's new president. The court accepted the main opposition party's contention that the vote was invalid because a quorum of two-thirds of Turkey's 550 MPs was not present.

    The presidential election has now been postponed until after parliamentary polls set for July 22.

    Turkey's secular elite, including leading judges and army generals, is opposed to Mr Gul, a former Islamist, becoming head of state, amid fears that he will try to erode the separation of state and religion. Both Mr Gul and Mr Erdogan strongly reject the claim.

    Earlier this month, prosecutors conducted a similar investigation after Mr Erdogan referred to the same constitutional court ruling as "a bullet fired at democracy".

    In early May, Turkey's ruling party, the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP), called for early elections to defuse the country's biggest political crisis in a decade, rooted in the fissure between the country's secular establishment and its moderate Islamist government.

    The crisis kicked off when Mr Erdogan picked Mr Gul to be Turkey's next president. Parliament, which chooses the president in four votes, picked Mr Gul in the first ballot. But the vote was boycotted by the opposition, who went to court seeking to overturn the verdict.


    • #32
      June 15, 2007 -- Turkey's president has called a referendum on plans to for the head of state to be elected directly by the public rather than by parliament.

      The office of Ahmet Necdet Sezer said in a statement that he would also ask the constitutional court to rule on objections he has regarding the reforms, without elaborating.

      The Justice and Development Party (AKP) introduced the reform plans after opponents stopped Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, from being elected president by the parliament.

      Parliament is dominated by the AKP, an Islamist-rooted party led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister.

      The crisis has forced Erdogan to bring forward a parliamentary election to July 22.

      Erdogan says allowing the Turkish people to directly elect the president will bolster Turkish democracy.

      The reform plans also envisage replacing the current single seven-year presidential mandate for once-renewable five-year term.

      Critics say the move will be to the detriment of a system of checks and balances in Turkey's constitution.

      Sezer, a secularist critic of the government, had two options on the reform plan - to sign them into law or to call a referendum on them.

      He vetoed the plans in May but cannot do so a second time.

      The constitutional court is expected to rule next week on an appeal from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) that would annul the government's reforms.

      If the court does annul the reforms, the referendum will no longer be required.


      • #33
        ANKARA, Turkey, July 22, 2007 (AP) - Turks voted for a new Parliament on Sunday in a contest viewed as pivotal in determining the balance between Islam and secularism in this nation of more than 70 million.

        Many people cut short vacations to head home to cast their ballots, and lines at some polling stations were long as people voted early to avoid the summer midday heat. In Istanbul, Turkey's biggest city, traffic jammed some main roads and police officers stood guard outside the gates of schools serving as polling stations.

        "My biggest concern is security. I voted for a party which, I believe, will end terrorism and provide security for our citizens,'' said Remzi Ekinci, a civil servant. He declined to identify his choice because he works for the government.

        The new Parliament will face a host of challenges, including a presidential election, violence by Kurdish rebels and a growing divide over the role of Islam in society.

        The election was called early to defuse a political crisis over the Islamic-oriented ruling party's choice of presidential candidate, and the three-month campaign was peaceful. Turkey has made big strides after the economic and political chaos of past decades, but some feared the vote could deepen divisions in the mostly Muslim nation.

        Fourteen parties and 700 independent candidates were competing for a total of 42.5 million eligible voters. Campaigning was prohibited on Sunday.

        Parties must win at least 10 percent of the votes in order to have representation in Parliament, a high threshold that has drawn some criticism as being undemocratic.

        The country has an emboldened class of devout Muslims, led by a ruling party with a willingness to pursue Western-style reforms in order to strengthen the economy and join the European Union. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has presided over strong economic results, including reduced inflation, more foreign investment and average annual growth of 7 percent.

        "Things are going well, there's stability in the economy,'' said Kadem Diner, a catering company owner. "I think it would be insane to ruin stability by voting for someone else.''

        The success of the ruling Justice and Development Party has often been touted as proof that Islam and democracy can coexist, although its detractors accuse Erdogan and his allies of plotting to scrap Turkey's secular traditions despite their openness to the West.

        Many of these government opponents constitute a traditional elite and have roots in state institutions such as the courts and the military, guardians of the secular legacy of national founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

        They argue that personal freedoms - such as the right to drink alcohol or a woman's choice of clothing - are in peril, but they have more of an authoritarian background and less of a reformist record than the government.

        Voter surveys suggest the ruling party will retain a majority in the 550-member Parliament, although its winning margin is likely to be smaller than when it came to power in 2002 elections.

        The Republican People's Party is expected to remain the main opposition group, railing against a government it says is intent on imposing religion on politics. The hardline Nationalist Action Party, which seems to share some policies with both the ruling party and the opposition, also appears poised to enter Parliament.

        "I want our government to protect secularism,'' said banker Burcin Atalay, who voted for the Republican People's Party.

        One of the first jobs of the new Parliament will be to elect a president. The post is largely ceremonial, but the incumbent has the power to veto legislative bills and government appointments.

        In May, Erdogan's ally, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, abandoned his presidential bid after fierce opposition from the secular establishment. Opponents said Gul's election would remove the last obstacle to an Islamic takeover of the government, and the military - instigator of coups in the past - threatened to intervene to safeguard secularism.

        Another task for the new government will be to decide whether Turkey, a NATO member, should stage an offensive into northern Iraq to thwart rebels of the separatist Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, who have bases there. The United States, beset by problems elsewhere in Iraq, opposes such a move, but Turkey is frustrated by escalating rebel violence, and says Washington has reneged on promises to help it fight terrorism.

        Erdogan has said Turkey could stage an incursion into Iraq if talks on the security situation fail. Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has received an invitation from Erdogan to visit Turkey, but no date has been set, the Iraqi government said.

        In predominantly Kurdish areas in southeast Turkey, security forces patrolled near some polling stations to prevent possible attacks by Kurdish rebels seeking to disrupt the elections. There were no reports of violence.

        Voters in two southeastern villages with a total of 2,200 eligible voters boycotted the election, citing local grievances. In Sinan village, voters said their landlord had confiscated their lands and lawmakers had not resolved the situation despite their appeals. In Uzungecit, people said they would not vote because the road to their village had not been repaired in decades.


        • #34
          Today's crucial election is pitting the secular against the Islamic. But growing ethnic tensions and violence are emerging that could prove to be the decisive factor:

          July 22, 2007 -- Standing in front of a crowd in the north-eastern Turkish city of Erzurum, Devlet Bahceli waved a length of greased rope. 'If you can't find any,' he yelled, addressing the Prime Minister, Tayyip Erdogan, 'you can hang him with this.'

          The man he wanted hanged was Abdullah Ocalan, captured in 1999 after the Kurdish separatist war he started had killed an estimated 35,000 people. Turkey sentenced him to death, but under pressure from the EU commuted the sentence to life imprisonment.

          Turkey today holds perhaps the most important parliamentary elections in its history. The poll was called four months early after the political deadlock over a suitable presidential candidate that paralysed the country in May.

          The governing AKP has based its campaign on its economic record. The opposition parties have focused on accusing the Islamic-rooted party of threatening Turkey's secular system.

          But it is the reigniting of the Kurdish conflict, which has killed more than 70 soldiers this summer, that has become the unexpected big issue for voters in today's elections, bolstering nationalist candidates such as Bahceli.

          Head of the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) that is likely to win at least 80 seats in parliament today, his supporters are descendents of the semi-fascistic 'Grey Wolves' of the bloody civil conflict of the 1970s. MHP has mellowed with age. The same cannot be said of the Republican People's Party, or CHP, set up by the founder of the Turkish Republic, Kemal Ataturk, and torch-bearer of his secularist legacy. In the 1990s, at the height of the Kurdish war, CHP wrote one of the most liberal reports on Turkey's gangrenous Kurdish issue. Now, it has slid into overt nationalism, and leads the growing band of Turks opposed to EU membership.

          'We're a social democratic party,' said CHP spokesman Onur Oymen. He insists that nationalism in Turkey has none of its European connotations of racism. 'It simply means defence of national interests,' he said.

          It is a curious way of describing the comments of another CHP deputy, Bayram Meral, during recent debates on a law to enable non-Muslim Turks to reclaim properties confiscated by the state. 'What's this law about? It's about giving "Agop" his property back,' Meral railed, using a common Armenian name. 'Congratulations to the government! You ignore the villagers, the workers and the farmers to worry yourself with Agop's business.'

          CHP opposed the law, as it has opposed countless efforts by Turkey's government to reform a system where the rights of individuals limp in a distant second behind laws protecting the state.

          Much of the blame for the secularists' slide into authoritarianism lies with Europe, whose growing Islamophobia and bungling over Cyprus has convinced many Turks that their three-year-old accession bid is going nowhere.

          'I fought all my life for Turkey's EU bid,' says Onur Oymen, a former ambassador to Germany. 'Now some European friends are saying we can only ever expect secondary status. We cannot accept that.'

          There is much talk of European hypocrisy. but the roots of CHP's malaise are much older. Most left-wing parties are born out of opposition, but CHP began its life as the state, and it retains the authoritarian mindset of the early years of the republic. It increasingly suggests that time can be turned back to the party's 1920s heyday, when Ataturk cut all ties with the Ottoman past and replaced them with imported 'contemporary civilisation'.

          Onur Oymen is a case in point. 'Is Erdogan capable of doing what Ataturk did?' he angrily replied to a governing party deputy who had the temerity to suggest his party was modern.

          There was the same sense of time warp at the huge secularist marches in April and May, pointed out by Ségolène Royal, unsuccessful candidate in France's recent presidential elections, as evidence that Turkey should join the EU. In fact, the ubiquity of pictures of Ataturk, and the rhetoric, created an atmosphere redolent of the 1920s.

          'We won the Liberation War despite the fanatics and we won't lose now,' ran one poster, referring to the war leading to Turkey's foundation in 1923. Others had badges reading simply: 'Ataturk will win the war.'

          'We are today's mad Turks,' schoolteacher Hasan Devecioglu said, referring to a popular novel about the liberation struggle published in 2005. Turgut Ozakman's Those Mad Turks tells of how, while the Sultan and his government collaborated with Great Power plans to carve up Turkey, Ataturk's Turkish nationalists fought from the depths of Anatolia. For today's secularists, it is the pro-Western, pro-market government that is collaborating in foreigners' efforts to divide the country.

          It all leaves Turks without a viable civilian alternative to AKP. Without the reforms AKP has pushed through, Turkey would not have its place on the ladder to Europe. Since then, it has lost its way. Doubts are growing as to whether it has any vision beyond the criteria defining whether a country is eligible to join the EU.

          Erdogan appears increasingly irascible, and today's election is unlikely to open the way to change. Polls show the government well ahead and CHP second, similar to the 2002 results that polarised the secular and the religious-minded. Noose-waving Bahceli is set for parliament, and a possible coalition with secularists.

          It reminds Murat Belge, a prominent left-wing intellectual, of Weimar Germany. 'With its constitution and its government, Weimar represented the high-tide mark of German democracy,' he wrote in the liberal daily Radikal on Friday. 'Within ten years ... Hitler was installed as Chancellor.'

          The comparison seems unduly pessimistic, but it should ring a warning to Europe, whose ambivalence to Turkey has undermined the reform process.

          Turkish election: Q & A

          Why the early poll?

          Today's voting was brought forward after a deadlock in the political system in May when the governing AKP's (Justice and Development Party) attempt to elect a new President was blocked by judges. The choice - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul - brought millions of secular Turks out in protest and infuriated opposition parties. Gul, whose wife wears the headscarf, was seen as too close to the religious Prime Minister, Recip Tayyip Erdogan.

          What is at stake?

          Opposition parties say this is a referendum on a secular or an Islamic state, and that a second term for the AKP threatens the heritage of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of secular Turkey.

          The Islamic-rooted AKP says it is a vote for democracy or for authoritarianism. It says five years of annual economic growth and a series of radical reforms will be ruined by disunited opposition groups.

          But Turkey is not a truly secular state. Religion is not divided from the government. Since the 1980 military coup, schoolchildren attend obligatory religious classes.

          What have been the issues?

          AKP swept to power in 2002 thanks to its promise to reform and pull Turkey into Europe. AKP delivered both economic growth and a start to EU negotiations. But the mood today is different. Nobody talks about the EU any more. People are more concerned about unemployment (now high at 10 per cent), the collapse of agriculture and on whether to invade northern Iraq to suppress any violent Kurdish bid for independence. The conviction that Washington supports Iraqi Kurdish goals means anti-Americanism is sky-high, strengthening authoritarian secularist and nationalist calls to break with the West.

          The tax system is also in chaos - Turkey's unregistered economy is though to be worth almost 50 per cent of GDP.

          Who are the key players?

          The AKP has mass support among the religious and conservative population, but says that rather than Islamist it is pluralist - defending the rights of religious Muslims against constitutional restrictions. It backs EU entry, democratic reform and extending the rights of the large Kurdish minority.

          The main opposition Republican People's Party is left-leaning and firmly secular, sceptical of reforms promoted by the EU and of extending Kurdish rights. It promoted May's mass rallies. The far-right, nationalist National Action Party (MHP) is the only other party likely to overcome the 10 per cent threshold needed to enter parliament. It is hostile to the EU and Kurds, and wants military intervention in northern Iraq to root out bases of the separatist Kurdish PKK group.

          What results are likely?

          Most polls suggest AKP will pick up around 40 per cent of today's votes, 6 per cent more than in 2002. The chief opposition RPP party is polling roughly 20 per cent, followed closely by the right-wing nationalists of the National Action Party. The new parliament is also likely to contain at least 20 Kurdish deputies.

          So with three parties competing this time, AKP is likely to lose seats despite extra votes. It will almost certainly fall short of the two-thirds quorum needed to elect a President and make constitutional changes.


          • #35
            AK Party wins big despite all odds

            The ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) won a landslide victory in yesterday's general elections, leaving its nationalist rivals far behind as it secured an unparalleled 47 percent of the national vote, comfortably ensuring that it will again form a single-party government.

            The center-left but nationalist Republican People's Party (CHP), the closest rival of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's AK Party, won nearly 20 percent of the vote, finishing the race close to the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). The MHP secured a return ticket to Parliament, following a five-year break, with 15 percent. The results reflected 80 percent of the votes having been counted when Today's Zaman went to print.

            (full article via link)


            • #36
              So it is going to be a tight rope walk for AKP,
              between Secularism & Islamism..!


              • #37
                I don't actually think the AKP want a theocratic state. Or at least, their voters don't, so they couldn't institute it even if they wanted one.



                • #38
                  August 14, 2007 -- The Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul today pledged to uphold the country's secular constitution if parliament elects him president.

                  "Protection of secularism is one of my basic principles. Nobody should worry about this," Mr Gul told a televised news conference, adding that he would be a president for all Turks.

                  Mr Gul, who sparked unease among Turkey's military with an earlier bid for the presidency, said he would also press ahead with the country's EU membership bid.

                  Earlier, Mr Gul revealed that he had held talks with the leader of the far-right Nationalist Action party (MHP), Devlet Bahceli, although he did not say whether the MHP would back his bid.

                  Mr Gul's attempt to win the presidency earlier in the year triggered a political crisis in Turkey, forcing the government to hold early parliamentary elections.

                  The president is considered to be the commander in chief of the armed forces and the fiercely secular military - Nato's second-biggest standing army - had publicly declared its opposition to Mr Gul.

                  Prime minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development party (AK party) decided to once again nominate Gul for president last night.

                  But his decision immediately ignited protests from parties that accuse Mr Gul of having an agenda to scrap the secular traditions of the predominantly Muslim nation.

                  "This is an imposition by the Justice and Development party on the parliament," Onur Oymen, deputy chairman of the secularist Republican People's party said today. "We find this wrong."

                  Turkey's main opposition party, the secularist CHP, also condemned the decision, saying it did not support Mr Gul's candidacy and would not attend parliament during the presidential elections.

                  The CHP deputy chairman, Mustafa Ozyurek, added that the party would boycott receptions and foreign trips if Mr Gul was elected president.

                  Elections for the presidency are due to start in parliament in just over a week's time. Mr Gul's nomination appeared to be a move to please grassroot supporters of the AK party.

                  The Republican People's party now lacks enough seats to block Mr Gul's way to the presidential palace.

                  Mr Gul has also said that the MHP has pledged to attend the voting process in the legislature, enabling the AK party to achieve the necessary number of members to hold the vote.

                  The AK party won a majority of seats in July 22 elections, but it did not secure the two-thirds needed to approve a presidential candidate alone during the first two rounds of parliamentary voting.

                  Mr Gul is almost certain to be elected by a simple majority in the third round of voting on August 28 if parliament secures the necessary number of voters.

                  Today, Deniz Baykal, the leader of the Republican People's party, said Mr Gul's Islamist past and his thoughts presented a threat to the secular regime.

                  The job of president is critical to overall control of the state as the incumbent has the power to veto legislative bills and government appointments.

                  Selahattin Demirtas, a member of the small, pro-Kurdish Democratic Society party, also pledged to attend the voting process but said Mr Gul's nomination was not wise.

                  "The nomination of someone who had caused crisis is likely to lead to a new crisis," Mr Demirtas said.

                  Mr Gul's wife wears a headscarf, which many secular Turks regard as a symbol of political Islam and cite as a reason why he should not become president.


                  • #39
                    The Turkish foreign minister Abdullah Gul today pledged to uphold the country's secular constitution if parliament elects him president.
                    'Abdullah' and 'secular' don't seem to flow too well together in one sentence...

                    this dude pledges to keep Turkey secular too if nominated. humph.
                    It seems as if one fails to conceive
                    The meaning my name strives to achieve

                    To a biological form you cannot relate-
                    Because a reproductive cell is a gamete not gamate!

                    It means to unite, -to become consolidated
                    So without me in, is there hope we'd be amalgamated?


                    • #40
                      Secular, democratic states are a good thing. I'm glad Gul doesn't want to turn Turkey into a theocracy - it would destroy the country. He also understands (unlike the army and CHP apparently) that it's perfectly possible within secular systems to be openly religious but to reject theocratic government. In that sense, it never really was about "secular versus religious" in the way that was portrayed in much of the western press.



                      • #41
                        August 24, 2007 -- Abdullah Gul, the Turkish foreign minister, today failed for a second time to win sufficient parliamentary support to be elected president.

                        Mr Gul, accused by secularists of harbouring an Islamist agenda, fell short of the two-thirds majority he needed in the second round of voting.

                        But he remains by far the favourite candidate and is likely to succeed in the third round next week, when only a majority of parliamentary votes is required.

                        Mr Gul, who has insisted he will not undermine Turkey's secular constitution, received 337 votes, 30 short of the total he needed. Sebahattin Cakmakoglu of the Nationalist Action party, received 71 votes, while the third candidate, the state minister Tayfun Icli of the small Democratic Left party, got 14 votes.

                        The results were broadly similar to those of the first round of voting on Monday, and mean that the deep unrest caused by Mr Gul's nomination for president by the prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will drag on for at least another week.

                        The crisis has already seen the military - which has ousted four governments since 1960 - threaten to intervene to uphold the constitution.

                        Mr Gul was forced to abandon his initial bid to become president, but he was renominated by Mr Erdogan as the candidate of the Justice and Development party (AKP) after its success in last month's early general election.

                        The main opposition Republican People's party fears that Turkey's secular principles and laws will be under threat with the offices of both the prime minister and the president in the hands of figures with Islamist backgrounds.

                        Mr Gul and Mr Erdogan have said they are moderates, citing their support for reforms in Turkey's bid to join the EU.

                        A respected diplomat, Mr Gul began Turkey's EU accession talks. He was also briefly the Turkish prime minister when the AKP came to power in 2002.

                        Although largely ceremonial, the job of president is critical to overall control of the state. The president holds the power to veto legislation and appoints high-level officials, including ambassadors and the chief judges in Turkey's top courts.


                        • #42
                          August 28, 2007 -- Turkey's staunchly secular armed forces said yesterday that secularism in the country was under attack by "centres of evil", in a strong warning a day ahead of the expected election to the presidency of Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist.

                          General Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the armed forces' website that "our nation has been watching the behaviour of centres of evil, who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic. Nefarious plans emerge in different forms every day." He warned: "The military will keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey."

                          The statement recalled a military warning issued in April, at the height of the debate about Mr Gul's bid for the presidency. In April, the military said it was concerned about the future of Turkey's secular traditions and hinted that it might intervene to guard them.

                          Mr Gul, the foreign minister, is likely to be Turkey's 11th president after a third round of voting in parliament today. He withdrew a bid earlier this year in the face of mounting criticism from the secular opposition, which was backed by the military and the country's top court. Huge crowds took to the streets to demand that he revoke his candidacy.

                          The prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan called early general elections in July to defuse the tensions and the ruling party won a resounding victory, which most analysts here interpreted as the people's support for Mr Gul's candidacy.

                          Mr Gul renewed his presidential bid after the elections. In the first two rounds of voting, he failed to get support from the required two-thirds of the parliament, but he will need only a simple majority in the third round today.


                          • #43


                            • #44
                              "Prayer mats to enter residence for first time"

                              Appointment marks win for Muslim democrats

                              Gul sworn in as Turkey's president


                              • #45
                                For the first time, prayer mats will enter the presidential palace and, even more scandalously for secularists, so will a headscarf-wearing first lady in the form of Hayrunisa Gul, the new president's equally pious wife.
                                wohoo! revolution indeed!

                                this new prez better wear bullet proof vests wherever he goes... that General Yasar dude really don't like him and like all generals, they're armed and fearless.

                                It seems as if one fails to conceive
                                The meaning my name strives to achieve

                                To a biological form you cannot relate-
                                Because a reproductive cell is a gamete not gamate!

                                It means to unite, -to become consolidated
                                So without me in, is there hope we'd be amalgamated?


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