AKP calls for early general election in Turkey

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Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Abdullah Gül, deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister of Turkey.
Image: José Cruz/ABr, 2006.

The ruling party in Turkey has asked the Grand National Assembly of Turkey to approve a general election to take place June 24, 2007. The next general election was scheduled for November.

The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which holds 363 of 550 seats in parliament, apparently feels that it will not be able to achieve quorum in the vote on its presidential candidate Abdullah Gül. Analysts reportedly project that AKP would fare well in the elections.

Just yesterday, the Constitutional Court annulled the first round of voting in the presidential election.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Image: Bertil Videt.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan called the court's decision "a bullet aimed at democracy... It has made it almost impossible for the parliament to elect a president in the future." He also called for the constitution to be changed so that the president is elected by popular vote, instead of the current method where parliament elects the president. Erdoğan also proposed to change the constitution to allow the president to serve 2 terms of 5 years instead of the current single term of 7 years.

The Turkish pro-secular movement first feared that prime minister Erdoğan would run for president. When the ruling AKP chose Abdullah Gül as their candidate instead, they feared that Gül might have a hidden Islamic agenda and be a threat to the separation between religion and state in Turkey. But AKP denies such agenda, and Gül has promised to adhere to secularist principles if he would become president. Gül's wife has in the past fiercely defended her right to wear the Islamic headscarf.

Meanwhile, the United States has joined the European Union in asking the Turkish Armed Forces to stay out of the process. The military sees itself as the guardian of secular government in Turkey and has toppled the government four times since 1960.

The first rally on April 14 in Ankara.
Image: Selahattin Sönmez.

Two pro-secular rallies with several hundred thousand demonstrators took place in April, one in Ankara and the other in Istanbul. National symbols were strongly present during these protests, and people were chanting "Turkey is secular and will remain secular" and "We don't want an imam as president!".

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