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29.08.2007

Generals protest against Gül's presidency

Turkey's powerful military yesterday boycotted the swearing-in ceremony of President-elect Abdullah Gül in Parliament.

  The absence of the military is seen as a sign of protest against Gül's presidency, a member of the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) whose wife wears a headscarf.

According to customs, top generals are present in Parliament when the president takes the oath of office since the head of the country is also the chief of the military. The generals were present during the swearing-in ceremonies of Gül's predecessors, Ahmet Necdet Sezer and Süleyman Demirel.

The boycott shows that the military is suspicious of Gül as president and has started a debate on his legitimacy. Gül's term will probably mark a period of increased tensions among the various state institutions, more specifically between the military and prime ministry-presidency axis.

"It is not good boycotting Gül," said former Prime Minister Mesut Yılmaz yesterday.

Chief of General Staff Gen. Büyükanıt signaled the possibility of increasing tensions through a statement he made late Monday, a day before Gül's election, for the occasion of Victory Day.  

"Our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can't embrace Turkey's unitary nature and centers of evil that systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," said Büyükanıt in his statement.

He also said that the "nefarious plans to ruin Turkey's secular and democratic nature emerge in different forms every day." "The Turkish Armed Forces will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey," he said.

Büyükanıt said there were efforts to erode the Turkish Armed Forces but they won't be deterred by such betrayals and attacks. Gül's first bid was blocked in April after a harsh statement by the military posted on the Web site of the Turkish Armed Forces. Abdullah Gül did not give up on his bid as his party increased its votes nearly 12 percent, to 47 percent.