Monday, 30 April 2007

Turkey: "Islamist" democracy; military "democracy"

This post is trying to pull together some bits and pieces about the possibility of "Islamist" democracy or military "democracy" in Turkey. I have photos from the protest in Istanbul this Sunday and notes of some of the many slogans chanted, which I'll add when I can.

The Guardian on Friday noted that,
The ruling Justice and Development Party has supported religious schools and tried to lift the ban on Islamic head scarves in public offices. Secularists are also uncomfortable with sending Gul's wife, Hayrunisa, to the presidential palace because she wears the traditional Muslim head scarf.

Both Gul and Erdogan, however, reject the label of Islamist. The government has shown openness to the West by securing economic stability with help from the International Monetary Fund, and seeking European Union membership.
At the same time, however,
he [Erdoğan] has publicly endorsed the lifting of restrictions on women wearing Islamic-style headscarves in government offices and schools, attempted to outlaw adultery and approved of alcohol bans by AK party-run municipalities.
The Turkish Army's view (based on excerpts from the BBC, with my emphases), is that,
Turkish Armed Forces are concerned about the recent situation. It should not be forgotten that the Turkish Armed Forces are a party in those arguments, and absolute defender of secularism.... It will display its attitude and action openly and clearly whenever it is necessary....

Those who are opposed to Great Leader Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's understanding 'How happy is the one who says I am a Turk' are enemies of the Republic of Turkey and will remain so. The Turkish Armed Forces maintain their sound determination to carry out their duties stemming from laws to protect the unchangeable characteristics of the Republic of Turkey. Their loyalty to this determination is absolute.
As Mark Mardell noted in relation to a military parade to mark the birthday of the republic, Turkey's army is a political force:
Few adult Turks can see this sight [the military parade] without recalling that the last coup was just nine years ago and was preceded by the coups of 1980, 1971 and 1960.

Senior diplomats say that Turkey has moved beyond coups and the army would only intervene like that if there was a total economic and political meltdown.
Nevertheless, as Mardell went on to say,
It is instructive to look at the 1997 coup, which has been called the first "post-modern coup". That is a trendy way of saying the army made clear its displeasure, and events followed without the need for much brute force.
A different report made clear that when Mardell said 'the army made clear its displeasure', what he meant was that, 'the Turkish military sent tanks into the streets in a campaign that forced the pro-Islamic prime minister to resign'.
Neither the generals nor their puppets took over but the government resigned and there was a clampdown on political Islam.
So, if the army felt they had to "protect the republic", there would not be a coup proper, because it wouldn't be necessary; they would get their way without needing to impose direct military rule.

Still, apparently unlike the last, "soft coup",
Olli Rehn, the European Union enlargement commissioner... warned the military to stay out of politics, saying the election was a 'test case' for the Turkish military's respect for democracy.
(The 'United States urged a peaceful solution' as well. The Human Rights Association (İnsan Hakları Derneği) judged that, '[t]he statement has damaged our country's democracy and our state of law'.)

Even the mere act of Abdullah Gül's refusing to withdraw his candidacy from the democratic elections and (as the Guardian put it), 'saying it was "unthinkable" for the institution [the military] to challenge the political leadership in a democracy' is striking, according to Reuters Africa:
Such [that is to say, any] defiance would have been unthinkable 10 years ago when the army, with public support and without tanks, last ousted a democratically elected government it deemed too Islamist.
Still, as
Many also believe that it [the Turkish army statement] is also a message to the judges in the constitutional court to declare the vote invalid and dissolve parliament,
the even softer, post-post-modern coup may already have taken place.

One of the fears is that many people believe the government would be Islamist (rather than merely Islamic) and would agree with artist Bedri Baykam (with my emphases) that,
"We do not want any military coup d'etat, because that would take us 20 or 30 years backwards. But we also don't want an Islamic coup, because that would take us 1,000 back. Between 30 and 1,000, I would prefer 30."

The Associated Press (AP) report on yesterday's protests in Istanbul stated that,
Tens of thousands of secular Turks gathered in Istanbul Sunday, chanting slogans against the pro-Islamic government that has faced severe criticism from the country's powerful military;
then again, despite the past tense used, they were published in the Guardian at 10.01am (12.01pm Turkish time), two full hours before the protest officially began.

By the end of the rally, the AP knew that,
At least 300,000 Turks waving the red national flag flooded central Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government, saying the Islamic roots of Turkey's leaders threatened to destroy the country's modern foundations.
Reuters believed that,
As many as one million people rallied in a sea of red Turkish flags in Istanbul on Sunday, accusing the government of planning an Islamist state and demanding it withdraw its presidential candidate.
Later that night, Reuters quoted further speculation, wherein
Police told Reuters more than 750,000 attended, while CNN Turk said the district town hall put attendance at 1.2 million.

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