Burhan Ozbilici/AP
Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the pro-Islamic
Justice and Development Party

Turkey’s Constitutional Court Decides not to Ban Islamist-Leaning Party

August 01, 2008 03:33 PM
by Anne Szustek
The country’s majority AK Parti missed judicial closure by a one-vote margin. But can the party overcome the tug-of-war between hard-line secularists and the more religiously minded?

30-Second Summary

Six of 11 jurors on Turkey’s staunchly secularist Constitutional Court voted to ban the AK Parti from national politics on the accusation that it was trying to undermine the nation’s legal tradition of secularism. The court instead opted to slap the party with 12 million euros in fines.

Had one more juror voted in favor of the measure, Prime Minister R. Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gül and 69 other party officials would have been forbidden from politics for five years. The Welfare Party—of which Erdogan and Gül were once members—saw a similar fate in 1997 when the military coaxed them out of power due to the party’s Islamist platform.

The AKP has been heralded in some Turkish circles and by many Western governments for economic liberalization. Within the country however, the party has instigated moves interpreted by some to run counter to the secular ideals instituted by national founder Atatürk at the country’s inception.

Intermittent bans on alcohol, a clampdown on pork production, a failed attempt to illegalize adultery and a parliamentary move to end the ban on the headscarf—which was eventually overturned by the Constitutional Court—were cited by chief prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya as evidence the AKP has an ulterior Islamist agenda.

The word on the street among Istanbul’s affluent elite is likewise critical of the AK Parti: “They are trying to brainwash people. They are fakes. They are wearing a mask to hide what they really are,” says one young woman.

See BBC coverage

Headline Link: ‘Court Stops Short of Banning Ruling AKP’

Background: Hard-line nationalists vie with Islamist-leaning politicos

Historical Context: Secularism in Turkey, 1997 ouster of Welfare Party, 1998 no-confidence vote

Key Players: Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Abdullah Gül

Recep Tayyip Erdogan (1954–)
Abdullah Gül (1950–)

Opinion & Analysis: Constitutional Court ruling offers a middle road that satisfies neither side


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