ANKARA, (Reuters) – Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan called for unity in Turkey, two days before a top court deliberates on a case to close his party, the Hurriyet newspaper reported on Saturday.
Erdogan acknowledged in an interview for the first time that his ruling AK Party had made mistakes that had contributed to the current crisis between the Islamist-rooted government and its secularist opponents.
The government pushed through a controversial law to lift a headscarf ban in universities, which was later vetoed by Constitutional Court, and has tried to change the constitution without broad support since it was re-elected last year.
Constitutional Court judges will begin discussing on Monday whether to shut the AK Party for attempting to introduce Islamic rule in the predominantly Muslim but officially secular state. “Of course we made mistakes too. This is possible … But it is again the people to whom (the government) will be accountable,” he said.
Erdogan called for unity in Turkey, which is polarised between a secularist establishment, including army generals and senior judges, and the government. “If there are mistakes and tensions, we need to restore social peace again,” Erdogan said. “What is important is to live together under this sky in unity.” He said he still had public support and blamed Turkey’s elite for the current political turmoil in the country. “There is no problem with the people. The problem lies with the elitist group. They want Turkey to go in the direction of their own wishes,” he said.
Prosecutors are also seeking to ban Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and 69 other leading AK Party figures from party membership for five years. The party denies the charges.
The court case has raised questions about the future of Turkey’s European Union membership talks and unsettled its financial markets, which have been hit hard by concerns about political instability.
Erdogan emphasised economic stability and democratisation. “We cannot get good results if we cannot carry out economic development and democratisation together. The one-and-half billion strong Muslim world is watching us to see how we apply religion and secularism together,” he said.
If the court closes the party and bans its leading members, commentators say the most likely scenario would be for an early parliamentary election, possibly in November.