Turkey's staunchly secular military said on August 27 that the strict line between Islam and the state was under attack by "centers of evil" — a strong warning ahead of the expected election of a president with a background in political Islam. Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military's Web site, that "our nation has been watching the behavior of centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic."
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose bid earlier this year to become president in a parliamentary voting process was blocked by the secular establishment because of concerns about his Islamic past, was expected to win the post on Tuesday. The statement from the military, which seized power from civilian governments three times in past decades, was issued to mark the 85th anniversary on Aug. 30 of a military victory that was crucial for the establishment of modern Turkey.
"Nefarious plans to ruin Turkey's secular and democratic nature emerge in different forms everyday," Buyukanit said in the statement. "The military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey," Buyukanit said.
In April, when Gul's candidacy first came to vote, the military, which had largely stayed out of the public debate, indicated it was willing to become more openly involved. "It should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces is one of the sides in this debate and the absolute defender of secularism. When necessary, they will display their attitudes and actions very clearly," the military said at the time.
Gul is likely to be Turkey's 11th president after a third round of presidential voting in the Parliament Tuesday. He withdrew his earlier bid in the face of mounting criticism from the secular opposition, which was backed by the military and the top court. Huge crowds took to the streets in major cities and demanded that Gul revoke his candidacy for the post.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who had picked Gul as his candidate, called early general elections to defuse tensions. The elections were held July 22, and Erdogan's ruling party won a resounding victory, which most analysts here interpreted as the people's support for Gul's candidacy.
Gul renewed his presidential bid after the elections. In the first two rounds of voting, he failed to get support from two-thirds of the Parliament, which was required to be elected for the post. He will need only a simple majority in the third round on Tuesday. His party holds 341 of the 550 seats in Parliament. (Courtesy: Yahoo News, AP, August 27, 2007)