01 May 2007

Democracy Prevails!

Pro-democracy protesters at Sunday's Istanbul rally [Credit: Reuters]Breaking News: Following Sunday's mass rally, Turkey's Constitutional Court has just annulled last week's first round parliamentary vote to elect a new president on the basis that not enough parliamentarians were present.

The Islamist-rooted government may now call early general elections in an attempt to diffuse the crisis, possibly as soon as the middle of next month. However, elections are unlikely to make a significant difference as the various secular parties on the left and the center-right lack charismatic leaders and are unable to work together. Although Turkey has twice previously had a prime minister from an Islamic party, the president is expected to maintain the country's secular system, founded by Ataturk in 1923, and is responsible for appointing the prime minister, the military's chief of staff, and members of the Constitutional Court. Whatever happens, Turkey looks set for a period of uncertainty and instability in the weeks and months ahead.

Evening UPDATE: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced that he will tomorrow apply to parliament to hold the general election on June 24 or July 1. More significantly, he will also propose a change in the constitution to allow the country's citizens to elect the new president, instead of the present system in which parliament chooses the president. If this actually happens, it would represent a genuine shift towards open democracy – we live in interesting times.

Thursday UPDATE: The Turkish Parliament has unanimously approved early elections for July 22, despite concerns that many Turks will be away on holiday at that time and therefore unable to vote.