EU warns Turkey's army on democracy

Turkish military has said it will enter politics to protect secularism.

    Secularist university students protest against the
    AKP Party in Ankara on Saturday [Reuters]

    "The timing is rather surprising and strange," he said. "It's important that the military respects also the rules of the democratic game and its own role in that democratic game."
    Military 'concern'
    Turkey's military, which has intervened five times in the last 50 years to topple governments, on Friday warned the government that it would enter politics if the ruling party attempted to alter the country's long-standing commitment to secularism.

    In a statement, the military's general staff said that the pro-secular army would "openly display its position and attitudes when it becomes necessary".


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    The unusual warning came after Abdullah Gul, the presidential candidate for the ruling Justice and Development Party, failed to win the first round of a parliamentary vote after opposition parties boycotted the poll, which is the first step towards chosing a new president.


    "It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in this debate and the absolute defender of secularism," the statement said.


    "When necessary, they will display their attitudes and actions very clearly. No one should doubt that."

    The military said the the "Islamist" agenda of the ruling party threatened the very foundation of the Turkish state.
    "This radical Islamic understanding, which is against the republic and has no goal but to erode the basic qualities of the state, has been expanding its span with encouragement," the military statement said.
    Presidential vote
    Gul, the foreign minister, failed to win enough votes in a first round of voting in parliament on Friday after mainly-secularist opposition parties boycotted the first of four votes which will culminate in the selection of a new president.
    The boycott was aimed at preventing the Justice and Development Party of obtaining the 367 votes of the 550-seat parliament needed for the vote to be valid.

    Opposition parties boycotted Friday's vote to select a new president [Reuters]

    Ruling party legislators went ahead with the balloting, and Gul received 357 votes. 

    At least 367 votes are required to win in the first two rounds, but only a simple majority, or 276 votes, is needed for victory in the third due to be held on May 9.
    The ruling party says only one-third is needed for a quorum, and it expected that Gul, would prevail by the end of the voting process next month.
    The second round is scheduled for May 2. Gul, whose party holds 353 seats, is likely to win in the third round.
    He has promised to uphold the country's secular traditions amid concerns that his victory will strengthen the role of Islam in politics.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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