- AKP - Islam - Recep Tayyip Erdogan - Turkey
ANKARA, June 6 (Reuters) - Turkey's ruling AK Party accused
the country's top court on Friday of violating the constitution
by overturning a government-led reform that lifted a ban on
Muslim headscarves at universities.
Thursday's Constitutional Court ruling was the most serious
setback for the Islamist-rooted AK Party since it came to power
in 2002. It increased the likelihood courts would, in a separate
case pending, ban the party on charges of Islamist subversion
and bar the prime minister and president from party activity.
"The Constitutional Court decision is direct interference in
parliament's legislative power and this is an open violation of
the principle of separation of powers," AK Party deputy chairman
Dengir Mir Mehmet Firat told reporters after a 6-hour emergency
meeting of top party members.
The secularist establishment, including army generals and
judges, suspects the AK Party of harbouring a hidden Islamist
agenda. The Party, which embraces nationalists, market liberals
and centre-right politicians as well as religious conservatives,
denies such accusations.
Mustafa Unal, a columnist for religious-leaning daily Zaman,
wrote: "This verdict will affect the closure case negatively."
The Constitutional Court -- whose rulings cannot be appealed
-- is expected to rule on the separate AK Party closure case in
the coming months; but if the party feels it has been boxed in,
it may make a preemptive move, analysts said.
Firat declined to comment on the party's next move except to
say Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan would speak on Tuesday. Firat
said the party executives had not discussed early elections.
The political uncertainty sent the lira currency more than 1
percent lower against the dollar, hit stocks as well as bonds.
Analysts fear reforms in the European Union candidate
country will be put on hold as the AK Party fights for survival.
Analysts expect the AK Party to be outlawed, although some
say the court could decide only to punish AK Party leaders,
given that forming a new party would be easy under Turkish
Senior AK Party members told Reuters recently the party had
begun to believe it would be closed and Erdogan banned from
politics for up to five years. The sources, who declined to be
named, said party members had begun planning to create a new
Turkey has a history of banning political parties and the AK
Party's predecessor was banned in 2001 for Islamist activities.
The courts and the military see themselves as guardians of a
strict separation of religion and politics, which is rooted in
the foundation of the modern state in the 1920s from the ruins
of the dismembered Ottoman Empire.
The party denies charges of Islamist activities, which it
regards as an attempt by arch-secularist opponents to dislodge a
government with a large parliamentary majority and a leader,
Erdogan, who enjoys broad popular support.
The headscarf reform has rekindled a decades-long dispute
over the role of Islam in a country of 70 million that is
officially secular but predominantly Muslim and has yet to
reconcile the two sides.