Turkish court refuses to ban ruling party
The Turkish Constitutional
Court on Wednesday dismissed
a prosecutor's request to close down the ruling Justice and Development Party on charges that it was working to undermine the secular nature of the state.
Six of the 11 judges voted in favour of banning the party, one short of the seven needed for the charges to have been deemed proved. The court did however decide to cut one-year's worth of state aid to the party by 50 per cent.
Announcing the decision, a visibly-stressed Court President Hasim Kilic said the ruling was a "warning" to the party.
"I would like to hope that this result will be analysed very well, will be evaluated very well and the political party in question will take the message that it should take," Kilic said. "At the end of this, a warning decision for this party has been made."
There were cheers from AKP politicians in parliament as the verdict was broadcast on television.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan welcomed the decision saying that his party had never been the focus of anti-secular activities and that his government would continue to implement democratic reform.
"With this decision, not only the AKP but also all of Turkey has been saved from a great injustice. Our democracy has been saved from a great shame," Erdogan told cheering supporters in Ankara Wednesday night.
"There is no stopping. We will continue on the road of the democratic, secular, social rule of law state," Erdogan said, adding that this road included full membership of the European Union.
The decision not to ban the party also meant that no politicians will be banned from party politics.
Chief Prosecutor Abdurrahman Yalcinkaya had sought to have 71 AKP figures banned for five years from participating in party politics, including President Abdullah Gul and Prime Minister Erdogan.
The main evidence that Yalcinkaya presented to the court was his claim that attempts by the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan to allow women to wear Islamic-style headscarves at universities were proof that the party's aim to impose Islamic-style law.
"There is a very close danger that (the AKP) wants to impose shariah law," Yalcinkaya told the court earlier this month.
The decision will come as a relief to not just the AKP but also to the stock markets which feared that closing down the party could lead to economic turmoil as a decision to ban the party would almost certainly have led to early elections.
At elections in July last year the AKP received 47 per cent of the vote, giving it a massive majority in parliament.
The verdict comes as Turkey has been rocked in recent months by allegations that a shadowy group of secular nationalists had planned a wave of violence that would create the conditions necessary for the military to step in and overthrow the government.
A first trial of 86 alleged members the so-called Ergenkon group is set to start in October.