ANKARA – Turkish Daily News
The Constitutional Court is set to start final deliberations on the closure case against the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, today amid calls by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for national unity.
�The Turkish Republic is our firmament,� he told daily Hürriyet in an interview with its Editor-in-Chief Ertuğrul Özkök Saturday. �The column that supports it is union and unity; if it collapses, we will all be trapped underneath.�
Erdoğan's remarks came two days before the court is set to start work on reaching a verdict on the case, which will have serious political consequences if the AKP is closed and 71 of its high-ranking members including Erdoğan are banned from politics. The party received 46.7 percent of votes only a year ago but now risk being disbanded on charges of being a focal point of anti-secular activities in the country.
Erdoğan admitted that his government had made mistakes in the last year. �Of course we made mistakes too. A politician always evaluates yesterday, today and tomorrow… We do it everyday. I repeat: We also had mistakes,� he said. But, he said, we should be answerable to the people for that.
The prime minister also pointed to the fact that there is a need to restore social peace. �Our differences are not an obstacle. None of us can discriminate against the other because of differences. Our experiences show that discrimination and exclusion of such differences weaken social peace but accepting them as richness of our society strengthen the peace,� he said. Erdoğan delivered a similar speech on July 22, 2007, right after the announcement of his party's decisive victory in the general elections where he promised to embrace all the citizens regardless of the parties they voted for. But this did not help in stopping the polarization among society as �us and others.�
Meanwhile, Justice Minister Mehmet Ali Şahin said his party did not make anything wrong and does not deserve to be closed. "I do not think that the verdict will take our country into deeper uncertainity," Şahin told reporters yesterday. "We are loyal to the constitutional system, democratic regime and its principles. We're a party which tries to enforce them," he said.
Judges of the top court will convene on a daily basis until they reach a verdict on the closure case. It's not yet clear when the court is likely to announce its verdict. The votes of seven of the 11 judges will suffice to ban the party.
Apart from a ban on the party, judges will also evaluate the call by the chief prosecutor to bar President Abdullah Gül, Erdoğan and 69 AKP officials from party politics for five years. The court can go along with the prosecution, or it can completely or partially cut Treasury aid to the party or it can throw out the case.
Observers say outlawing the party could plunge Turkey into political chaos, impact membership talks with the European Union and hit the economy at a time of global financial jitters and rising energy prices.