Friday, June 15, 2007

Secular and religious parties in Turkey continue to struggle over the presidency

Turkey, which faced the threat of a coup a few months ago, and continues in a face-off with Iraqi based PKK separatists, continues to be divided over how it's president will be elected.
The power struggle gripping Turkey became even more intense on Friday. Using the final political tools available to him, the country's secular president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, called for a referendum to determine whether his successor should be elected by popular vote instead of in parliament. At the same time, he said he would ask the country's high court to nullify a May 31 vote in parliament paving the way for a popular presidential election.

However the debate over the legalities of the conflict overshadows the fact that the AKP's pro-Islamic tendencies are massively popular in Turkey. The party has repeatedly insisted it is not interested in establishing an Islamic state and has led Turkey on a path of reforms in order to prepare the country for potential European Union membership. Nevertheless, Sezer has vetoed a record number of bills proposed by the AKP, many of them aimed at weakening the church-state separations put in place by modern-day Turkey's founding father, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk.

Turkish author Ahmet Altan describes the two societies in Turkey today:
The first group has been despised, discredited, and pushed around throughout the years of the Republic. Now this group has become politically organized. It is large. And it now has the political power to win every election.

The second group is in the minority. And it currently has no chance of ever winning another election.

In Altan's description, the first group are the religious members of society, the second group are the secularists.

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