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From landmark success to closure: AKP's journey
While a year ago it celebrated landmark success in the general elections, winning 46.7 percent of the vote, the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is now desperately awaiting a court ruling that could end in the disbandment of the party.
Turkey's political landscape has proved slippery once again, threatening both the country's fragile economy and the integrity of its security and foreign policy. In the whole country, the tension is high. Each political party blames the other one for the ongoing turmoil and a deep chink between the institutions leads the agenda, constituting one of the gravest crises in Turkey.
Here is how this crisis evolved in chronological order:
July 22, 2007: The AKP won the elections by a landslide victory and secured another five-year term in Parliament, increasing its votes from 34.4 to 46.6 since 2002. The party dominated the 550-seat Parliament with 340 deputies. Its capture of 46.6 percent of the votes was a figure that had been unseen since the 1950s.
Right after the declaration of the results, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan made a public speech on the election night from the balcony of his party building where he displayed a conciliatory attitude, saying that the AKP would embrace all regardless of political affiliation. He even thanked those who didn't vote for his party.
August 28, 2007: Despite strong criticism, Abdullah Gül, was elected as the 11th president of Turkey following a marathon that began in April. Turkey witnessed escalating social and political tension ahead of Gül's presidency, leading to republican rallies and reaction from the military against Gül's presidency. Gül's presidency ushered in a new era in Turkey's history, as Çankaya Palace witnessed for the first time a first lady that wore a headscarf.
September 14, 2007: The AKP pushed for a new constitution in an effort to replace the 1982 Constitution, which was prepared by the military leaders of a junta and thus established a commission consisting of academics. The commission, led by constitutional law professor Ergun Özbudun, met in Sapanca on Sept. 14 in an effort to prepare what the AKP called a more democratic, civilian and simpler constitution.
Despite the intensive work by the scholars on the new constitution, the draft couldn't be brought to Parliament for discussion.
January 14, 2008: Erdoğan said during a trip to Spain that the use of the headscarf as a political symbol was not an offense, a comment that drew harsh reactions from the secular segments of the society. “What if the turban is a symbol (of political Islam)? Even if it were a political symbol, does that give right to ban it? Could you bring prohibitions to symbols?” he said.
January 17, 2008: Abdurrahman Yalçınkaya, chief public prosecutor of the Supreme Court of Appeals, released a severe statement on the removal of the ban, saying that lifting the headscarf ban would be against the “secular unitary structure” of the state. “The wearing of certain outfits in an educational establishment as a freedom ... will allow sects, racist organizations and separatist forces to easily use and spread their symbols, leading to social segregation and conflict in the country,” he said.
February 7, 2008: On the day he took office as head of the Supreme Court of Appeals, Hasan Gerçeker warned Parliament not to erode the secular order. Parliament agreed on the amendments and Gül approved them.
February 16, 2008: The Turkish Industrialists' and Businessmen's Association, or TÜSİAD, criticized the government's headscarf move, saying the focus shouldn't be on the headscarf.
March 14, 2008: Yalçınkaya filed a complaint against the AKP and petitioned for the Constitutional Court to close the party down, arguing, “The party has become a focus of anti-secular activities.” Yalçınkaya requested a ban on 71 politicians -- current and former members of the AKP -- from politics, including Erdoğan and Gül.
June 5, 2008: The Constitutional Court annulled the AKP-sponsored constitutional amendments that lifted the headscarf ban in state universities.
July 22, 2008: Both the prosecutor and the AKP made their verbal statements before the court on July 1 and July 3 respectively. Rapporteur Osman Can recommended on July16 that the judges not ban the party. The judges are now expected to set a date to discuss the case.