Friday, April 6, 2007

Will Turkey Stay Secular?

Turkish elections will be held May 16, and the secular nature of Turkey's government instituted after World War I by Attaturk, may well be in the balance:

As the countdown proceeds towards the May 16 presidential election in Turkey, a sense of panic pervades Turkey's secular circles, which fear for the secular and democratic nature of the Turkish republic. The possibility that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will bid for and win the presidency heads the national agenda, with daily polls, wagers, and guessing games.

According to the Turkish constitution, the president is elected by parliament; at present, the AKP party, whose roots are Islamist, holds the majority in parliament.

To date, Erdogan has been secretive about his candidacy, saying that the AKP will disclose its presidential candidate on April 16, a month before the election.

The thought of an Islamist occupying the highest position in the land has thrown the country into turmoil, and has deepened the rift between Islamists and secularists - and this is reflected in Turkey's divided media.

Business circles, NGOs, and the general public have been expressing their wish for nominating a candidate by national consensus, so as to prevent chaos and instability.

Many of the AKP government's Islamization attempts during the past four years have met with rejection and vetoes by the current president, the staunchly secular Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who has acted as a force for checks and balances. This will be lost if he is replaced by Erdogan.

It is thought that if the AKP adds the presidency to its monopoly on the executive and legislative bodies, it will constitute a serious threat to the core principles upon which the modern Republic of Turkey is built. Such absolute, unchecked rule will even give the AKP the power, in the period between the presidential and general elections, to change the constitution and make Turkey into a religious state.

While some secularists are looking to Turkey's strong military, as the custodian of the republic and of the constitution, to intervene as a last resort, the senior commanders are remaining silent on the matter of the presidential election and on internal politics, with reference to the democratic process and in line with demands by the E.U. to lessen the military's influence.

Read the rest of the article here.

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