ANKARA, (Reuters) – Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said on Saturday a bid by state prosecutors to shut down his AK Party was a move against the “national will” and he denied accusations his party threatened the secularist order.
A state prosecutor asked Turkey’s top court on Friday to shut down the AK Party, which has won two successive elections with large majprities. He sought also to ban from politics Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul.
“This case is a step taken against the national will… Nobody can depict the AK Party… as a hotbed of anti-secular activity… Nobody can deflect us from our path,” Erdogan told a televised AK Party rally in the southeast city of Siirt. “We will continue our democratic march with the same determination,” Erdogan told the rally.
Tensions have been running high for some months between the secularist establishment, including elements of the judiciary and the powerful military, and the AK government. Critics have denounced a move to allow women to wear islamic headscarves in universities as symptom of a slide towards religious rule.
The AK Party, born of a coalition of islamists, centre-right politicians and nationalists, denies any secret islamist agenda and has been vigorous in promoting market and social reforms since first elected five years ago.
Erdogan, once jailed and banned from politics on charges of Islamist statements, is by far the most popular politician in Turkey. But the military view with deep scepticism his declarations that he is commited to liberal democracy.
The courts and the military see themselves as guardians of the country’s strict separation of religion and politics rooted in the foundation of the modern state in the 1920s from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.