Turkish court to rule on AKP's fate

The Constitutional Court begins deliberating on Monday on whether the ruling AK Party has engaged in Islamist activities and should be dissolved, a move that could plunge Turkey into political crisis.



Turkey’s Constitutional Court has entered the final stage of a case that could lead to the banning of the ruling AK party.


The court’s prosecutor, Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya, argues that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islam-inspired AK party is trying to gradually introduce Sharia Islamic law in Turkey. He has urged the court to bar President Abdullah Gul, Erdogan and 69 AKP officials from party politics for five years.


The prosecution file is largely based on speeches by AK party members and media reports. “Those are borderline extracts from the AKP, such as the ones on headscarves in universities”, said FRANCE 24’s Istanbul correspondent Assia Shihab. The Constitutional Court recently quashed a government decision to allow women to wear headscarves in universities.


Secularists argue that such legislation, as well as other moves including those restricting alcohol sales, is proof that the AKP-led government is aiming to make Turkey an Islamic state.


They also oppose Turkey’s adhesion talks with the EU, which could be suspended if the court rules against the government, according to Assia Shihab. The AKP has been pushing for Turkey to join the EU since it entered government in 2003.


Observers consider that the secularist camp, which is pushing for the prosecution case in the Constitutional Court, is supported by 30 to 40% of the population.


The secularist establishment is not a homogenous group


The secularist establishment, which is traditionally associated with the military, the judiciary and part of academia, is not a homogenous group. Many older military officers do oppose the AK party, including two retired generals recently arrested for allegedly plotting a coup against the government. They will go on trial in October along with 85 other suspects.


The military, however, cannot be reduced to a militant secularist group. “There is now evidence that the force commanders were planning a coup in 2004. The reason they did not carry it out was that they did not find support among their junior officers,” Grenville Byford, a Paris-based researcher and consultant on Turkish politics told FRANCE 24. “The Turkish army is a conscription army – those are the sons of the people who support the AKP,” he added.


According to FRANCE 24’s Istanbul correspondent Jasper Mortimer, ordinary Turkish citizens do not support militant secularism. “They are concerned about jobs and inflation, rather than headscarves, and the government has done extremely well in that area: Turkey enjoys 6% growth and inflation has been brought down to 10% from 50 or 60% a few years ago,” he said.


“Absolutely rotten” decisions


As a result, many analysts think the population is unlikely to react to the possible closure of the AKP. Grenville Byford disagrees. In his opinion, the Constitutional Court has made “absolutely rotten” decisions since the AKP has been in power, such as modifying the rules of the presidential election last year. “They clearly have decided to take a political role. Are the people ready to let them do it? They have television, they have seen colour revolutions all over the world,” he said in reference to democratic movements such as the Orange revolution in the Ukraine. “It is a mistake to assume that they will let anything happen.”


Tensions run high in Turkey. Sunday night’s deadly bombing in Istanbul caused chaos, and the parliament, which should have recessed, has prolonged its session in case the Constitutional Court outlaws the AK Party.


A verdict is expected in the first days of August, when seven of the Constitutional Court’s 11 judges have formed a majority. Most judges were appointed by previous Turkish presidents, who were members of the secularist camp.


The ruling could go one of three ways. The court can shut down the AKP and impose political bans on Erdogan and his colleagues, it can completely or partially cut treasury aid to the party, or it can throw out the case.


If the Court decides to ban the AKP, new elections will take place later this year. AKP members could then decide to form a new party or run as independents.



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