[R-G] Turkey's AKP Escapes Ban
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Wed Jul 30 20:00:44 MDT 2008
Turkey's AKP survives court fight
By Vincent Boland in Ankara
Published: July 30 2008 16:22 | Last updated: July 30 2008 22:36
Turkey's ruling party survived an attempt to oust it from power in a
landmark court judgment on Wednesday, pulling the country back from a
bitterly divisive battle over Islam and Turkey's secular constitution.
The constitutional court rejected a prosecutor's demand that the
Justice and Development party, the AKP, be closed after he accused it
of undermining Turkey's secular state with a stealth agenda to impose
sharia law. The court found the party guilty, but imposed only
The AKP narrowly survived, according to the details of the verdict
announced by Hasim Kilic, the constitutional court's president. But
the party's survival meant its leadership, including Recep Tayyip
Erdogan, the prime minister, would not suffer the ban from politics
sought by the prosecutor.
The verdict was welcomed by European politicians, who feared that a
prolonged crisis would destabilise Turkey. Joost Lagendijk, chairman
of the Turkey-EU delegation at the European parliament, said he was
relieved by the ruling but added that the AKP "has to show more
sensitivity to the fears and worries of that part of the Turkish
population that did not vote for them".
Ten of the 11 judges found the AKP guilty of the charge of being "a
centre of anti-secular activity", Mr Kilic said. But only six voted to
close it, one short of the number required to ban the party. Instead,
the AKP faces a big cut in its state funding, a penalty that will be
compensated for easily by its wealthy backers.
Mr Erdogan said Turkey had suffered a serious loss of time and energy
due to this latest battle in a war between the AKP and Turkey's
secular institutions, especially the judiciary and the military. He
said his party would continue to uphold the country's secular values.
After three days of deliberation in a political and public spotlight,
a clearly emotional Mr Kilic – the only one of the judges to rule that
the party was not guilty of anti-secular activities – said: "This
verdict is a serious warning. I hope the party draws the necessary
lessons from this."
He also urged Turkey's politicians not to resort so quickly to the
court to address what are essentially political issues.
The case was sparked by the AKP's decision this year to lift a
constitutional ban on girls wearing the Muslim headscarf at public
universities. The measure was pushed through parliament, where the
party has a big majority, in spite of public opposition.
The measure was struck down by the constitutional court. But it led
critics to charge that the AKP was misusing its landslide victory in
last year's general election for sectarian purposes.
Financial markets had surged ahead of the verdict, which was announced
after the close of trading. The stock market rose 5.5 per cent and the
lira was sharply firmer against the euro. Analysts said the verdict
was the best one for investors, who have bought heavily into Turkey's
faltering structural reform agenda.
REACTIONS -- Turk top court decides not to close AKP
Here are the reactions to Turkey's Constitutional Court's decision on
Wednesday not to close the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
KOKSAL TOPTAN, TURKISH PARLIAMENT SPEAKER
"This ruling raised the democracy bar to a higher level, a serious
sense of relief will be felt in Turkey."
Deniz Baykal, LEADER OF THE MAIN OPPOSITION REPUBLICAN PEOPLE'S PARTY (CHP)
"Ten members defined the AKP as the focal point of anti-secular activities."
DEVLET BAHCELI, LEADER OF THE NATIONALIST MOVEMENT PARTY (MHP)
"Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP administrators should take
lessons and see that having problems with the constitutional order and
the foundation principles of the state can jeopardize the democratic
TURKISH GENERAL STAFF CHIEF, GEN. YASAR BUYUKANIT
"There had been no change in the view of the Turkish Armed Forces
regarding secularism, and as a soldier, I could not be expected to
comment on the decision of the top court."
OKTAY VURAL, GROUP CHAIRMAN OF MHP
"This is a decision of jurisdiction. Everybody should respect this decision."
ONUR OYMEN, CHP DEPUTY
"The consequence is important for the ruling party as the majority of
the court members wanted the AKP to be closed. This is a meaningful
warning for the ruling party."
MUSTAFA OZYUREK, CHP DEPUTY
"The majority of the court decided that the AKP has become a hub of
anti-secular activities. I hope the AKP starts acting in line with the
principles of secularism after this verdict."
TURKISH INDUSTRIALISTS' AND BUSINESSMEN'S ASSOCIATION (TUSIAD)
"Turkish democracy has completed its test on maturity successfully."
JAVIER SOLANA, EU FOREIGN POLICY CHIEF
"The ruling by the Turkish Constitutional Court not to ban the AKP is
good news," Solana's spokeswoman said. "Turkey is leaving a tense
situation and we very much hope that the decision by the court will
contribute to restoring political stability."
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