Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/turkey : Eu Warns Turkey's Army against Interfering in Politics

Magazine article Europe-East

Eu/turkey : Eu Warns Turkey's Army against Interfering in Politics

Article excerpt

The European Union is urging Turkey's military commanders to refrain from intervening in politics after the country's General Staff has warned that it was ready to take action if the state's secular model is not respected.

"It is important that the military leaves the remit of democracy to the democratically elected government. And this is a test case if the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularism and the democratic arrangement of civil-military relations," Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on 28 April.

His statement came after the Turkish military issued a harsh statement on 27 April claiming that Islamic reactionary forces are on the rise in the country. The General Staff, which has intervened four times in the last 50 years to overthrow governments, thereby sent a clear signal of its disapproval of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul's candidacy in the presidential elections, the first round of which was held on 27 April.

The prospect of Gul becoming head of state has alarmed the army, a traditional guardian of the country's secular model. The military commanders fear that if elected president, Gul, a former Islamist and a close ally of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, will let the strict separation of state and religion to be eroded and Islam will move stealthily into all fields of life.

Earlier the same day, Gul won the support of 357 out of the 361 deputies present at the vote in the first round of the presidential election. He failed, however, to win the 367 votes (two thirds of parliament) to be elected in the first round. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which boycotted the election, has applied to the Turkish Constitutional Court for the vote to be annulled, saying that there was no quorum at the voting session required for the vote to be held (367 deputies were required to form a quorum).

The General Staff's statement, announced hours after the vote was subjected to the Constitutional Court's ruling, is seen by the EU as a clear signal that the army tries to put pressure on the judges. …

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