Saturday, March 15, 2008

Post-Modern Coup—Take Two?

Last night an amazing thing happened: A case was filed in the Constitutional Court to close down AKP for allegedly anti-secular activities. Under Turkey's 1982 Constitution, parties may be closed by the Constitutional Court. Although some European states have similar provisions for party closure, the provisions in Turkey have long-been used as a political weapon against parties who step too far outside of the establishments' comfort zone. In total, 18 political parties have been closed down under the 1982 Constitution. AKP now joins DTP in facing potential closure.

Significant to the closure case is a list of 71 politicians that now face being banned from politics for a 5-year period. The list includes Prime Minister Erdoğan and President Gül and the bans could have a more serious impact on AKP politics than actual closure of the party. As before noted, AKP is in fact the reformulation of two other previosuly closed parties and its top leaders have experience in handling party closures. Banning Gül proves particularly interesting in that the president is theoretically positioned to be "above politics" and it will be interesting to see how the Court handles his name being on Yalçınkaya's list.

The closure case will change the entire pace of Turkish politics. With a popular mandate of a near 47 percent of the vote received last July, it seemed that AKP had stood up to the old guard (namely the military) and survived. However, as AKP has expressed strong intentions to pursue the Ergenekon gang's investigations and politically weakened itself by pushing so hard to lift the headscarf ban, it seems that the old institutional structures are now pushing back.

See reportage of the story in Today's Zaman.

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