THE decision by Turkey’s Constitutional Court not to ban the ruling AK Party is as remarkable as it is welcome. Turkish politicians, the local media and most observers had expected the court to rule that the party, as its opponents and the country’s chief prosecutor claim, had a secret agenda to turn Turkey into an Islamic state. Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan himself thought that he would be barred from office. The decision is a great relief for Turkey. The case brought against the AKP was an assault on democracy — the very democracy that its opponents supposedly support. The AKP was voted into power by the Turkish electorate — and, at the last election, by a considerable margin. That contest, moreover, was called specifically as a vote of public confidence in the party after the constitutional court challenged its candidate for the presidency. The right to get rid of a Turkish government belongs to the electors alone, no one else — not the courts (unless there is evidence of corruption), not the military, not anyone. The case brought against Edogan’s government was, in truth, nothing less than an attempted coup by the back door. Had it succeeded, Turkey would now be in potentially dangerous waters. The door would have been opened to political unrest as a thwarted electorate takes to the streets in protest at their chosen government being removed; that could have resulted in a clampdown, even a military takeover. Almost certainly too there would have been a destructive loss of public faith in the political system and the country’s institutions; that could have fed extremism. Meanwhile, the EU would certainly have responded negatively, putting all negotiations with it on ice, while economic confidence, damaged by the uncertainty of the court case and the wider international recession, would have taken a nose dive.
All that has been avoided and the hope now must be that Prime Minister Erdogan can get on with more serious issues — the economy, the need for further reform, the bid to join the EU and terrorism. He himself says that he wants to reach out and heal divisions. That is a statesman-like and encouraging response. No one, however, should imagine that the ruling is a complete victory for him: This may not be the end of the story. In what must be seen as a compromise (several of the judges wanted the AKP banned), the Constitutional Court has acted like an old fashioned policeman who lets a suspect go free but with the warning that if caught again he will be arrested. The court evidently believes the AKP does have an Islamist agenda but for the sake of political stability has decided not to act now, but will keep an eye on it and move to block any policies it considers “Islamic” (it has already blocked the lifting of the ban on the hijab). That was clear in the warning from the court’s president, that the AKP study the ruling and “get the message.” The belief that the AKP is a nest of fundamentalists intent on turning Turkey into an Islamic state is, of course, ridiculous. As has been pointed out time and again, in any other Muslim country it would be seen as so moderate as to not be Islamic at all. What the AKP is a modernizing party that reflects the culture of the Turks, an overwhelmingly Muslim people who, despite 80 years of secularist onslaught, remain insolubly attached to their faith. Erdogan has lived to fight on, but the court ruling is going to make his job more difficult.
Source: Arab News