Opinion: Vote Gives Clear Warning to Turkish Governing Party | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 31.07.2008
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Opinion: Vote Gives Clear Warning to Turkish Governing Party

Turkey's close vote on not banning the governing party should be a warning to the prime minister and the AKP, said DW's Baha Gungor. He called on Turks to accept the court's decision.


The president of Turkey's Constitutional Court, Hasim Kilic, saved Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) from being banned.

His vote on March 14 against Attorney General Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya's call for a ban led to an extremely close six to five result in favor of the ban. The required majority of seven votes wasn't attained and a clear decision couldn't be reached.

Erdogan and the AKP got off with just a slap on the wrist. Of the five constitutional judges who had voted against a ban, four of them advocated cancelling state funding for the AKP.

Baha Gungor

Baha Gungor

In the end, Turkey's highest court decided that the AKP should only receive half of the state funds available to political parties in parliament.

A clear warning to the AKP

On one hand, it's a reasonable decision. On the other hand, this percentage of votes is usually enough to rule on a parliamentary law, either overturning or confirming it.

Thus, the demand from Constitutional Court President Kilic is very important because he appealed to parliament, the parties and politicians to keep banning a party difficult in order to keep in line with European norms.

The concrete accusation against the AKP, that it's become a "center for fundamentalist activities against the basic secular order," was supported by a simple majority of constitutional judges, but not by the majority required to ban the party.

That's a clear warning to Erdogan and the AKP.

Turkey needs proximity to European values

The AKP simply has to recall everything it achieved with its electoral victory last year, where it claimed nearly 47 percent of the votes: continued development of Turkey as a democratic state, acceleration of reforms aimed at securing EU membership, and the abandonment of measures that could be seen as turning Turkey into an Islamic state.

The very same Constitutional Court, for example, refused to lift the headscarf ban at universities, but the move was not meant to absolve the AKP and the government of wanting to water down the strict separation of state and religion as a fundamental principle of the 85-year-old republic.

The stock market speculators, who have pushed up the index on the Istanbul Stock Exchange over the past few days and months and allowed for a 5.6 percent jump on the day of the AKP ruling, will be rewarded for their courage.

It would be unfortunate if this definitive ruling was not accepted. What Turkey needs is peace and prudence and anything that brings it closer to the European norms and values.

This would also be in the best interest of Europeans -- at a time when it would be extremely significant in the fight against international terrorism -- to have a reliable partner at the geographical edge of Europe.

Baha Gungor is the director of DW-RADIO's Turkish service (kjb)

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