Turkey’s Erdogan scores reform referendum victory
Turkish voters strongly backed constitutional reforms on Sunday, handing a government led by conservative Muslims a new victory in a power struggle with secular opponents over the country’s direction.
“The winner today was Turkish democracy,” Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan told followers. Erdogan had portrayed the reforms as an effort to boost the Muslim nation’s democracy and help its European Union candidacy.
(Photo: Tayyip Erdogan at a news conference in Istanbul September 12, 2010/Osman Orsal)
Though Erdogan’s AK party has pushed political and economic reforms and spearheaded Turkey’s drive for EU accession since coming to power in 2002, the secular establishment accuses it of using its parliamentary majority to introduce a hidden Islamist agenda. Until the advent of AK, a secular elite had held power since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded modern Turkey in 1923. With the army’s once-formidable power clipped by EU-driven reforms, high courts are seen as the secularists’ last redoubt.
Liberal on economic issues, and conservative on social policy matters, AK depicts itself as a Muslim version of Europe’s Christian Democrat parties, and denies opponents’ accusations that it has an Islamist agenda.
In 2008, Erdogan’s government tried to lift a ban on women wearing headscarves from attending universities, but the move was blocked by the Constitutional Court. Analysts expect AK, which draws its core support from a rising middle class of observant Muslims, to try again.