Sunday, April 29, 2007

Anti Islam rally in Turkey

a sea of red flags in Istanbul
Around half a million people gathered in Istanbul today demanding the resignation of the pro-Islamic government. The rally will spur fears of a military coup as it follows a steep rise in tensions between Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the country's prime minister, and the pro-secular army, which accuses the government of tolerating the activities of radical Muslims.

"Turkey is secular and will remain secular," the protesters chanted, waving the national flag. Ahmet Yurdakul, 63 year-old a retired government employee accused the government of wanting to "drag Turkey to the dark ages."
At the heart of the dispute is the recent indecisive presidential election, in which the ruling party candidate Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, failed to secure a first-round victory on Friday. Mr Erdogan's government yesterday rejected a warning from the army about the vote, calling it interference that is unacceptable in a democracy.

Most opposition legislators boycotted the vote and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court, prompting the military to voice its concern and threaten to become more openly involved in the electoral process

Since coming to power, Mr Erdogan's party has supported religious schools and tried to lift the ban on Islamic head scarves in public offices and schools. Opponents accuse them of trying to unpick the heritage of Ataturk, who founded the modern Turkish state along secular lines, replacing the Islamic alphabet and granting women the right to vote. Turkey has experienced three military coups since 1960.

What's next? Million+ protest in Turkey has this to say:
The army, which has toppled four governments in as many decades, responded that that it was determined to protect the secular system and take action if the need arose. This made it clear, many analysts said , that Gul's candidacy was not welcome with the army top brass. The government retorted by calling the army to order and Gul said he would remain in the race.

"It is out of the question for me to withdraw my candidacy in any way," he told reporters in Ankara.

The main opposition party has asked the constitutional court to cancel Friday's presidential vote in parliament, arguing that the assembly did not have the necessary quorum to open the voting session. If the court annuls the vote, general elections set for November 4 could be brought forward. If it does not, Gul could be elected president in a third round of voting on May 9, when an absolute majority of 276 votes would suffice. The court's president said they would make a decision before the second round of voting on