Turkey’s military has been told to stay out of politics by the European Union after its commander said it was watching presidential elections with concern. Protesters in the capital Ankara condemned the statement of the army chief who said he will act to defend Turkey’s secular state.
The row centres upon an inconclusive first round vote in parliament, as Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul fell short of achieving enough votes. Opposition parties are calling for the Constitutional Court to annul this election as less than two-thirds of the parliament were present.
General Yasar Buyukanit issued a strongly worded statement on Friday, indicating the army was willing to become more involved in the election process. Reaction in Turkey has been widely critical of the army’s threat. Turkish Cabinet spokesman Cemcil Cicek said, “It is unthinkable for the military, which is attached to the prime minister, to make any statement against the government on any issue, in a democratic state.” However, the army’s sentiment is supported by many in Turkey. Protesters in Istanbul demonstrated against the nomination of Islamist Gul. They wish to see a secular President elected.