Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Turkey To Resolve Constitutional Crisis By Holding June Elections

Prime Minister Erdogan has opted to resolve Turkey's contstitutional crisis by calling for new elections to be held June 24. The background to this crisis is here, here and here. The crisis, nominally about legal requirements to elect a President, actually turns on the fundamental issue of what the nature of the Turkish state should be. Should Turkey retain its identity as a wholly secular state, or should secularism be discarded in favor of political Islam? This from Reuters, reporting PM Erdogan's decision to resolve the issue democratically:

. . . The AK Party has proposed bringing forward the parliamentary election to June 24 from November 4. Erdogan is expected to win a second term after five years of strong economic growth since his party came to power in 2002.

The AK Party will also propose that in future the president be elected by popular vote, not by parliament, Erdogan said.

Deniz Baykal, leader of the secularist main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), said it was too late for this parliament, elected in 2002, to overhaul the constitution.

"This is about a fundamental power struggle. Erdogan is saying 'ok, you're using everything in order to stop me, then I am going to the public and I will ask them (what they want)'," said Mehmet Ali Birand, a leading Turkish commentator.

A threat by the army, which regards itself as the guardian of Turkey's secular system, to intervene in the presidential poll, an opposition boycott of the first round vote in parliament and an anti-government rally of up to one million people on Sunday sharply increased tension in Turkey.

The decision to bring forward the election brought relief to financial markets which had suffered their biggest fall in a year over the previous two days on fears of instability.

The European Commission welcomed the planned early election. Italy said recent events in Turkey showed caution was justified over its admittance to the 27-nation European Union.

Turkey, constitutionally secular and its 74 million people predominantly Muslim, began EU membership talks in 2005. . .
Read the entire article here. The AKP Party is clearly quite popular becasue it has very successfully managed a reform of the economy and a period of rapid economic growth during its years in power. That said, this election will almost certainly turn far less on the economy and far more on the issue of retaining a strictly secular government.

(H/T Dinah Lord)

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