Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Turkey's Electorate To Make A Stark Choice - Islamic or Secular Government

The ongoing saga of whether AKP would succeed in appointing an Islamist to the important post of President took another turn today when Turkey's highest court ruled in favor of the secularists, holding the Turkish Parliament's vote to make Abdullah Gul President void. This lessens the liklihood of a military coup and will probably be resolved by a new election in Turkey that will leave the voters a very stark choice - whether to cling to the strictly secular government format instituted by Ataturk after World War I, or whether to embrace political Islam.

Turkey’s constitutional court today supported an effort to block a candidate for the country’s presidency whose background is in political Islam, pitching the country into early national elections and a referendum on the role of religion in its future.

In a 9 to 2 ruling, the court upheld an appeal by the main secular political party to stop Abdullah Gul, the current foreign minister and a close ally of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, from becoming president, objecting to what it says are his Islamic credentials.

But the ruling, which involved the legality of a parliamentary vote for Mr. Gul that was held last Friday, was more political than legal: The court is part of Turkey’s secular establishment, which is now mounting an assault against Mr. Erdogan and the emerging class of devout Turks that he represents, and its decision did not come as a surprise.

Both Mr. Gul and Mr. Erdogan have their roots in political Islam, and the prospect of a president — the highest secular post in the country — whose background is in political Islam has alarmed some Turks.

. . . The court’s ruling appears to have brought Turkey to a defining moment.

Since Mr. Gul’s emergence as the sole candidate for president, a powerful post chosen by parliamentary vote, the country’s opposition parties and its military have warned that his selection would bring an end to the era of secular modernism that began with the Ataturk revolution in 1923.

Last week, the country’s military, which has ousted four elected governments since 1960, issued a stern warning, hinting that it might act against the government if it strayed too far from secularism.

. . . Before today’s court decision, Mr. Gul had faced another round of parliamentary voting this week in order to be confirmed as president. Mr. Erdogan may now propose another candidate or, more likely, call a general election.
In a speech to the nation on Monday night, he avoided directly mentioning the political troubles, instead appealing for Turks to come together. “Turkey needs this togetherness, this unity, this love that has been freed of prejudices,” he said.
Read the entire article here. This will be a watershed moment with perhaps permanent ramifications. As any woman in Tehran with too many strands of hair showing will tell you, once your government goes Islamic, its hard to ever go back.

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