Thursday, 3 May 2007

Democracy or secularism? Can Turkey have both?

While the US is having trouble with its president, Turkey’s been having presidential troubles of its own, so to speak. The vote in parliament nearly one week ago to elect a president has been annulled as the candidate did not reach the required majority, in part because he was of an Islamist party. Because of these problems, the leading Turkish party, AK, wants early elections on 22 July.

You might think the latest developments in Turkey are confusing. Well you’re not alone. See here for The Guardian's Q&A guide for a point by point explanation.

Turkey has worked hard to retain the secular legacy of its first and most famous modern leader, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk. Many times the military has intervened to ensure that secularism, and this is a major test for Turkey's democracy. The outcome of this string of events may indeed also change when and if Turkey can (rightfully) join the European Union. Some consider Turkey a part of Asia and the Middle East, but more include Turkey among European countries. Turkey is a long-time western ally and a member of NATO.

I both wish for secular governance and a democratic, non-military led administration in Turkey or anywhere else. The question is, which is a greater evil: military intervention every time the army sees fit, or moderate Islamic rule? The ardent secularists are afraid of political control by religious parties; the Islamic parties, and the ardent Turkish democrats, are wary of military intervention.

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