- August 28, 2007
Islamic-Rooted President Wins in Turkey
Abdullah Gul, a devout Muslim with roots in political Islam, won parliamentary election Tuesday as Turkey”s president in defiance of the country”s secular generals.
Turkey”s military, which has overthrown six previous governments in the country”s history, issued a statement warning on the eve of the parliamentary vote against “furtive plans which aim to undo the modern advances and ruin the Turkish republic”s secular and democratic structure.”
But the government of Gul”s Justice and Development Party is broadly popular in Turkey, credited by many for boosting public services, limiting corruption and helping to bring Turkey to what many economists say is the greatest prosperity in its history. The prosperity is likely to protect the government from any immediate moves against it by the military.
Gul took the oath of office in parliament without his wife, Hayrunisa, by his side. Her customary wearing of an Islamic head scarf has become a flash point for secularists.
“Turkey is a secular democracy . . . these are basic values of our republic and I will defend and strengthen these values,” Gul pledged in a speech to parliament after taking his oath. A secular opposition party boycotted the event, and small numbers of protesters outside parliament waved posters showing Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the general who put modern Turkey on the secular path in the early 20th century.
Turkey”s military intervened in April to block an attempt then to win Gul”s parliamentary election to the presidency. Generals posted a statement on the military”s Web site interpreted as a strong warning against Gul”s candidacy, leading the country”s prime minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan of the Justice and Development Party, to call early parliamentary elections last month to try to increase the party”s strength.
Turkish voters strongly backed the Justice and Development Party in the July elections, increasing its power in parliament in what was widely seen as a rebuke to the military for interfering.
The Justice and Development Party has stressed business and social services far more than Islamic goals in its six years in power.
Its ascendance follows elections elsewhere in the region that have increased the political strength of Islamic parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hamas in the Palestinian territories.
In Palestinian territories and especially in Egypt, however, the votes for the Islamic parties were widely seen as protest votes against local authoritarian systems. The Justice and Development Party”s success with voters is seen as an endorsement of the orderlyway it has brought inflation in check, boosted the economy and increased social services.
Special correspondent Zehra Ayman contributed to this report from Istanbul.