Turkey’s main opposition party today launched its campaign for the July 22nd election vowing to keep the country secular and capitalise on popular protests against the Islamist-rooted AK Party government.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan’s ruling AK Party, which denies any Islamist agenda, called the early parliamentary election to resolve a conflict with the secularist elite over a presidential election.
The secular establishment, including the military, judges and opposition parties, derailed the government’s plan to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as president, fearing he might weaken the official separation of religion and state.
“Turkey must say no to the AK Party in the ballot box,” Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told tens of thousands of supporters waving Turkish flags and shouting “Turkey is secular and will remain secular”.
“We will succeed in this with the power we get from you. We must defend the republic, the integrity of the nation and Mustafa Kemal Ataturk,” Mr Baykal said referring to the staunchly secularist founder of the Turkish Republic.
The CHP agreed this month to enter the elections together with the smaller left-wing Democratic Left Party (DSP) after calls by millions of secularist Turks at several anti-government rallies in Turkey’s biggest cities since mid-April.
Tens of thousands turned out for latest secularist rally in the western Turkish city of Denizli today.
The rally was billed by organisers as a way of uniting the divided opposition against the government which they accuse of trying to undermine the secular state in overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey.
Analysts said the rallies strengthened the CHP after its popularity waned during the four-and-a-half years of AK Party rule, whose policies helped cut annual inflation to around 10 per cent from nearly 60 per cent when they took power in 2002.
…this post forwarded by a Windsor Humanist (N.Hod) after a May 26, 2007 article in The Irish Times