Minarets and bayonets

Ahmet Necdet Sezer, Turkey’s outgoing president, said in a speech last week that the threat Islamic fundamentalism posed to the country was greater than ever, while on Saturday over 300,000 people took to the streets of Ankara to protest against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s possible bid for the presidency. The crisis in Turkey is deepening: On one hand is the «deep state» of the secular security establishment and, on the other, the masses who treat Islam as a unifying force and spearhead for making their way into the state apparatus. Speculation of a light coup aimed at blocking Erdogan’s path is intensifying. Over the past few days, there has been increasing talk of orchestrated violence on May Day celebrations as an excuse for military intervention. For its part, the Islamic-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) says that such a move would trigger a popular revolt. Rumor has it that Erdogan’s party has set up a shadow national security council, fueling speculation of a nascent dual power structure. All that, of course, may never materialize as Erdogan has many reasons to avoid a premature rupture. In any case, Turkey has entered a period of prolonged instability that is set to last until the parliamentary elections in the fall. Most surprising is the conspicuous silence from the West regarding the Turkish army threats against a democratically elected government. Some commentators would prefer secular military rule to a moderate Islamic democracy. They seem to forget that it was the Kemalist deep state that gave birth to the Cyprus invasion, the bloody junta of Kenan Evren and the so-called white cells. Also it’s the military chiefs that nourish opportunistic aspirations in Iraq and the Aegean Sea to reinforce their position amid a climate of nationalist fervor. As long as Turkey oscillates between the minarets and the bayonets, the further it will drift from its EU ambitions.

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