Turkey Court Bans Islamic Party
Turkey Court Bans Islamic Party
Jan. 17, 1998
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) _ Turkey's top prosecutor vowed today to crush any attempt to replace the country's largest Islamic party, shut down this week by a court ruling.
The Islamic-oriented Welfare Party was banned Friday for violating the nation's secular Constitution, which prohibits parties based on ethnicity, religion or communist ideology. Welfare supporters already have established a new party, called Virtue.
Turkey's Chief Prosecutor Vural Savas declared today that he would not tolerate any attempts to continue the movement under a different name.
Savas praised the court's decision in a television interview, and said that ``those who use religion for political propaganda give the greatest harm to the religion.''
Hours before the court announced its decision, Welfare's leader, Necmettin Erbakan, held meetings with leaders of two center-right parties, reportedly lobbying for revision of the constitution to lift its ban.
``It is the slaughter of the law 40 times over, but we respect the decision,'' Erbakan said.
Some legal experts also argued that Erbakan could challenge the ban by running on an independent ticket in the next elections.
But others said hard times were ahead for the 71-year-old politician, because he is no longer immune from prosecution. He could be put on trial for his anti-secular speeches, newspapers reported today.
Erbakan, among six deputies whose political activities were limited for the next five years by the court verdict, appeared poised to fight for his position in the growing Islamic movement.
He likely will be a behind-the-scenes force in Virtue and he is expected to choose a trustworthy caretaker to lead it.
``Erbakan won't give up the control of the party,'' said Ali Bayramoglu, a social analyst. ``To say Erbakan is finished, the movement is dead, is wrong.''
Erbakan, a leader in the Islamic cause for 30 years, is a resilient politician who has rebounded from a coup, jail and exile. But given his age, some analysts say it will be difficult for him to retain control this time, especially with a younger generation poised to move ahead.
One such leading candidate is Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the 43-year-old mayor of Istanbul.
``The hot-shot wrestlers will come to the arena, and for the first time within Welfare, there will be a political struggle,'' said Rusen Cakir, an expert on the Islamic movement.
Some analysts predicted that the new Islamic party would opt for moderation.
``We will adopt a milder tone. We have made mistakes in the past. But we didn't deserve to be closed,'' said legislator Bulent Arinc, 49, also a contender for Islamic leadership.
With the mixture of Islamic and Western styles, Erbakan symbolized the dilemma of many Turks stuck between the values of East and West. His Versace silk ties, scarves and French and Italian suits became a kind of fashion trademark. But his wife and two daughters cover their heads in accordance with Islamic tradition.
Welfare was founded in July 1983. Its lawmakers built support in villages and teeming urban slums, reaching out with better roads and sewers, health clinics and free food.
The movement won 21 percent of the votes in 1995 elections, giving it 158 of the 550 seats in Parliament. Erbakan led the country in a center-right coalition until June, when he resigned as prime minister under pressure from the military.