Crisis in Turkey
In Istanbul, hundreds of thousands gathered earlier today calling for the preservation of Turkey's fragile democratic institutions. Turkey is secular and will remain secular, shouted demonstrators from all over the country as they waved flags and pictures of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of the Turkish Republic.
The demonstration follows Friday's declaration by the Turkish military that it is prepared to defend Atatürk's legacy. In its statement, the general staff emphasized their role in the republic's democratic politics.
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.This includes the strong possibility of a coup d'etat that could be the 5th time the military has ousted democratically elected governments since 1960. So demonstrators feel trapped between the military and the liberal Islamic Justice and Development Party that has governed democratically since 2002. We want neither Sharia, nor a coup, but a fully democratic Turkey.
The crisis began when the Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, declared that Abdullah Cumhur Gül, the current Foreign Minister, would be the Justice and Development Party candidate in the upcoming 2007 presidential election. The presidency is the most important post in Turkey's secular government. So the prospect that it could be occupied by a man whose background is in political Islam is seen as deeply threatening.