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CIAO Focus, May 2007:
The Standoff between Secularists and Islamists in Turkey

Turkish flag


The nomination of Abdullah Gul for the Turkish presidency last month quickly snowballed into a political crisis that pitted the country’s secularists against the moderately Islamist government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

The crisis began when Mr. Erdogan selected Gul, his foreign minister, to replace the outgoing president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a staunch secularist.  Turkey’s secular political parties feared that Gul’s appointment to the presidency would enable the Islamists to consolidate power and increase the role religion plays in the government.

These sentiments were echoed by the army, a longstanding guardian of secularism in the country, and the courts which helped block the nomination.  Tensions were further heightened when hundreds of thousands demonstrated in the streets of Ankara and Istanbul to protest Gul’s candidacy.

Gul withdrew his bid for the presidency on May 6 in the face of overwhelming opposition, and the government has called for early elections for July.

This month CIAO examines the standoff between secularists and Islamists in Turkey.

From the CIAO Database:

Turkey's Future: EU Member or "Islamist Rogue State"?

Generating Momentum for a New Era in U.S.-Turkey Relations

Turkey's foreign policy in turbulent times

The Impact of the Iraq Crisis on Mediterranean Dynamics: Implications for EU-Turkey Relations

Benedict XVI’s Visit to Turkey: The Holy See before the Sublime Porte (in Spanish)

Outside Sources:

A Country Study: Turkey (The Library of Congress)

Analysis: Turkey's tense election (BBC News)

Dispatches from Turkey (NPR)

Bridge or Barrier? Turkey and the West After the Cold War (RAND Corporation)

Turkish General Staff


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