Sunday, March 16, 2008

Sezer's revenge

In the last days of his presidency the militantly secularist Necdet Sezer appointed Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya as the chief public prosecutor. Sezer had fought against the efforts of the AKP to remove some of what it considered to be anti-religious rules - the headscarf ban in universities and government offices being the most prominent. (The AKP had never tested the headscarf ban given that Sezer was clearly going to veto any such effort). After the AKP had put its own Abdullah Gul in the presidential palace it moved to remove the headscarf ban from universities. Teaming up with the right wing MHP it had the numbers needed to amend the constitution to get rid of the headscarf ban at universities. In this action they have had the support of most of the Turkish people with the opposition coming from the secularist old guard. Now, it seems the old guard has hit back. Yalcinkaya in his role as the chief prosecutor has initiated a case against the AKP demanding that it be closed down because of its "anti-secular activities." He has also demanded that leaders of the AKP including the prime minister and the president be banned from holding public office for five years. The stage is now set for a real constitutional crisis.

Some of the arguments and counter-arguments are amusing. One of the arguments for the closure is that the mayor's office of Istanbul prevented the display of billboards containing the bikini clad picture of a Czech supermodel. One of the arguments being used against Yalcinkaya is that under Turkish law you are not allowed to insult the President. Trying to remove the president from office can definitely be construed as an insult. Based on which AKP supporters are asking for the removal of Yalcinkaya for not following the law!

Hold onto your hats. This looks to become interesting. One sign that things are a bit different from the past is that Yalcinkaya waited to make his announcement until after the markets closed. There was a time when this would have been considered frivolous. The full text of the indictment (in Turkish) can be found here. If I have some time later I will try and post some excerpts in English. As might be expected the action has aroused the ire of much of the intelligentsia. I have had a hard time finding support for the prosecutors actions. Even the head of the staunchly secularist opposition Republican Peoples Party has kept uncharacteristically silent.

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