Turkey’s highest court halted a parliamentary vote Tuesday that looked certain to lead to a president rooted in political Islam, a victory for secularists who fear the country is moving toward Islamic rule that would undermine their Western way of life.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling for a constitutional amendment to allow the president to be elected by popular vote, rather than by the parliament. And he said new parliamentary elections could be held as early as June 24, instead of in November as scheduled.
The goal would be to elect a government with a fresh mandate and resolve a crisis that has seen the stock market plummet and the pro- secular military threaten to intervene.
“God willing, Turkey will go back to its track,” Erdogan told reporters late Tuesday, referring to the economic and political stability that Turkey had enjoyed in recent years.
Earlier, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, the ruling Islamist party’s presidential candidate, said he would not withdraw his candidacy despite Tuesday’s setback from the Constitutional Court, a strongly secular body, and urged parliamentary elections “as soon as possible.”
“What we need to cast off and get rid of these shadows is early elections,” Gul said.
The ruling of the High Tribunal has not been pleasant for Erdogan, who has condemned the ruling because it divides the people and was like “firing a bullet to democracy“. Then he backed down saying his remarks were not for the court, but against Deniz Baykal, the chief of the opposition who had called for the annullment of the vote.
So Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan proposed on Wednesday holding an early parliamentary election on June 24 to end a standoff between his Islamist-rooted government and the secular elite over Turkey’s political direction.
True, Gul has promised to maintain the state’s values of secularism and democracy, as well as to keep up Turkey’s good relations with the United States and Israel, and its pursuit of membership in the European Union. But some of his past actions worry secularists, including Gul’s meeting with Hamas leader Khalad Mashaal at the Justice and Development Party headquarters in Ankara in 2006. And Erdogan advocated a law to make adultery a crime, in 2004.
As a result, many secularists, including the chief of staff, Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, argue that Gul and Erdogan are merely paying lip service to secularism. They vividly recall Erdogan saying before he was premier, “Thank God, I am a servant of the Shari’a,” or Islamic law, and, “We will turn all our schools” into Islamic ones.
“I am the imam of Istanbul.”—Hürriyet, Jan. 8, 1995
“The police operations against the turban are comical.”—Sabah, May 5, 1995
“I support the proposal to inaugurate the parliament by reciting the Qu’ran.”—Milliyet, Jan. 8, 1996.
“I am against the [Western] New Year’s celebrations.”—Sabah, Dec. 19, 1994
“Alcohol should be banned.”—Hürriyet, May 1, 1996
“Swimsuit commercials are lustful exploitations.”— Hürriyet, Mar. 6, 1996
He also do not like Ataturk very much…
Q: I was reading an interesting article today on the Internet. Gul’s wife wears a headdress. They have a daughter who goes to college. And the daughter, when she’s at home, wears a headdress. But when she’s in school, she wears a wig, the article said.
A: The Islamic headgear is verboten in public institutions. If you want to attend a university, participate in class, you can’t legitimately wear a headscarf. They will deny you the ability to participate.
Q: But a wig is okay?
A: A wig is okay.
Q: A headdress can be a big issue.
A: The headdress is a symbol of a reversion to the pre-Ataturk period. That’s in large part what it is.
Q:You mean under the Ottoman Empire. . .
A: There was the fez and all those sorts of accoutrements of the time when the Ottoman Empire was a religious state. The headdress is viewed as an anti-Ataturk symbol and a political statement, not just an individual wanting to wear a headdress. It is a political statement that they are seeking to change the nature of the Turkish political entity.
President Sezer has been seen as a counterweight to Erdogan, using his veto power to stop controversial laws from being enacted. But with Sezer out of office, Erdogan as president, and an Erdogan appointee as prime minister, Turks suspect that Ankara will begin drifting farther from Europe and nearer to Tehran. In fact, the shift has already begun. As Turkish artist Bedri Baykam recently told the BBC, “This government is trying to change every law little by little. It’s as though we were trying to join the Iranian Union, not the EU.”
We will see what the future brings…
- Erdogan will ask for parliamentary elections in June to resolve the institutional crisis. (in Spanish). Premiê da Turquia defende eleições antecipadas e reforma eleitoral. Turquie: le scrutin présidentiel annulé h/t Bafweb. Turkish PM to ask for early poll.Turkish presidential vote annuled. Erdogan appelle les Turcs à l’union.
- 900 people detained during a protest on May 1st. The police has employed tear gas.
- US warns Turkey over war against Turkish rebels. [See my post Turkish army calls for Iraq incursion].
- New Zealand warns of possible terrorist attacks in Turkey.
More about the 3 missionaries dead: One of the Turks was an amateur actor who had played the role of Christ in a local TV (h/t Free Republic).