Back 4 - Next 

The generals' warning (April 2007)

Sener Erugur, President of Kemalist Atatürk Thought Association	Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit
Sener Erugur, President of Kemalist Ataturk Thought Association
- Chief of General Staff Yasar Buyukanit

The idea that the AKP is a threat to the secular order is regularly repeated by the opposition political party, the CHP, parts of the bureaucracy, Kemalist NGOs such as the Ataturk Thought Association and Kemalist newspapers such as Cumhuriyet.

In a speech to the War Academy in Istanbul on 13 April 2007, then Turkish president Ahmet Necdet Sezer, whose 7-year mandate ended on May 16, accused the AKP of trying to undermine the secular order.

"The political regime of Turkey has not faced such danger since the founding of the republic… The activities aimed against the secular order and efforts to bring religion into politics are raising social tensions."

On 24 April 2007, the AKP announced that Abdullah Gül would be its presidential candidate. Gul had been Prime Minister in 2002 and then Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister, and a strong champion of Turkey's EU integration effort. His selection was followed by a harsh reaction from the military, the president and Kemalist politicians, many drawing attention to the fact that his wife wore the headscarf.

On 27 April, the Turkish military published a dire warning by way of a late-night posting on its website. The general staff declared its opposition to the nomination of Abdullah Gul as presidential candidate. It reminded the Turkish government of the military's role as "staunch defender of secularism." It warned that it would display its "position and attitudes when it becomes necessary."

Mass demonstrations against Gül followed in several cities. The organiser of the Ankara demonstrations was Sener Eruygur, president of the Ataturk Thought Association, retired general and former head of the gendarmerie (one of the four generals who, according to Nokta, planned for a coup in 2004).

However, the intimidation failed. The AKP opted for early elections, which took place on 22 July 2007, winning a landslide victory with almost 47 percent of the vote - an increase of 12.38%. Abdullah Gul was duly elected president by Parliament in September 2007. The general election was widely interpreted as a showdown between the military establishment, with its traditionally unchallengeable authority, and the will of the Turkish people. Omer Erzeren commented on qantara on 30 July 2007:

"The election results are a slap in the face for the military and opposition parties, who thought they could score with nationalist slogans and militaristic poses."

It looked as if Turkish democracy had passed successful through this testing time, and could now look forward to five years of stable government. However, the fight back by the nationalist establishment was not long in coming.

 Back 4 - Next