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Old 04-27-2007, 03:17 PM   #1
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Turkish MPs fail to elect president, vote challenged at court

Turkey is electing its new president with the highest possible amount of controversy - dare I say Bush 2000 proportions??

Hmmm election of a president to be decided in court.. I am a bit uneasy.



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Turkish MPs fail to elect president, vote challenged at court

by Sibel Utku Bila 9 minutes ago

ANKARA (AFP) - Turkey's parliament failed Friday to elect a president as the opposition boycotted the first round of voting over the candidate's Islamist roots and mounted a legal challenge to disrupt the election process.
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The divisive election has widened the rift between Turkey's secularists and the Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan whose closest aide, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul is the sole candidate.

Gul garnered 357 votes from the 550-seat assembly, where the boycott of opposition legislators left the AKP almost on its own. He needed a two-thirds majority of 367 to win.

A second round, in which the winner still needs 367 votes, is scheduled for Wednesday.

But the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) rushed to the Constitutional Court, seeking to annul Wednesday's vote on a technicality and possibly force early general elections.

The CHP insists that the presidency, which it calls "the last bastion of secularism," cannot be left to the AKP, the moderate offshoot of a now-banned Islamist party and in government since November 2002.

For defenders of Turkey's secular system, the prospect of a president with an Islamist background is proof of religion steadily creeping into politics and public life.

Goverment supporters respond with charges of crisis-mongering and point to surveys that show an increasing number of Turks identifying with Islam.

Only a few dissidents from opposition parties and some independents joined the AKP in the assembly Friday.

Gul thanked them after the vote for having contributed "to strengthening Turkish democracy."

In a final appeal before the session, Prime Minister Erdogan called for a show of unity.

"Let us not fall into the trap of those who are trying to drag Turkey back to the customs of the past, to those periods of political paralysis," he said.

The opposition wants general elections scheduled for November to be held before the next president is elected.

If the vote is not derailed by the Constitutional Court, the AKP, which holds 352 seats, can comfortably elect Gul in the third round on May 9, when an absolute majority of 276 will suffice.

A court official said the judges would handle the opposition petition to annul the first-round vote "with the speed that the situation requires", but could not guarantee a ruling before the second round on Wednesday.

The CHP argues that Friday's voting should not have started at all, because the number of deputies present was fewer than 367, or the two-third majority the winner requires.

The AKP says the usual quorum of 184 was sufficient to open the session.

The AKP has disowned its Islamist roots, pledged commitment to the secular system and secured the opening of membership talks with the
European Union.

But some of its actions, such as attempts to criminalise adultery, isolate alcohol-serving establishments in special zones and encourage Koranic courses, have fuelled suspicions of its Islamist ambitions.

Outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a hardline secularist whose seven-year term ends on May 16, often vetoed laws he deemed anti-secular and blocked the appointment of senior officials he saw as Islamist government cronies.

Scores of pro-secular protestors demonstrated outside parliament as the deputies voted, brandishing Turkish flags and portraits of Turkey's secularist founder and first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

"Turkey is secular, it will remain secular," they chanted.

The moderate Gul was picked as the AKP candidate following unprecedented mass protests against Erdogan, a highly popular but controversial politician who had been widely expected to run.

The influential army also issued a subtle warning that the new president should be attached to secular values "not in words but in essence."

A secularist demonstration is scheduled for Sunday in Istanbul.
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Old 04-27-2007, 07:32 PM   #2
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It's America's greatest export, post 2000, buddy.....

How many "corrupted" elections have there been now? Let's see, Mexico, Nigeria, Ukraine (but thank God the PEOPLE caught wind of what that jerk was trying to pull, it was remarkably like Bush's strategy) . Major ones I can think off the top of my head. No doubt dozens of others in countries too small to be noteworthy, by BBC standards. Oh, and I may as well say, if you remember me, the resident ethnic Armenian on the board I'd count Armenia in the list. Robert Kocharian has hardly been a beacon of light. Though maybe that's either post-Soviet malaise or national growing pains. SERIOUS growing pains....

I'd bet a fistful of silver euros (Ok, they're not silver, but you know what I mean), that Bush has cronies "advising" this one. Not that it would be a bad thing if the Islamisists lose, IMO, but it's the principle of the thing.....

I always follow Turkish elections, looks like I'll be following this one more closely than usual....
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Old 04-28-2007, 02:39 PM   #3
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Well, this election is not 'corrupt' per se, but due to the faults of the system, it is wrong. The ruling party got 35% of the total vote, 25% of the voting age population (a lot of people didnt vote) but has 65% of the parliament. Why? Because of the 10% barrier! Of course, now they dont want to change it cause it favors them. The current parliament unfortunately is stuck with this sick, twisted arithmetics that don't actually reflect the popular opinion, but the opinion of the AKP base, 10 to 15 % of the total vote, usually, islamists.

That is why this year - with parliamentary and presidential elections, the Islamist threat, problems in N. Iraq, Armenian genocide claims in the US and France, Cyprus issue - is a perfect storm for Turkey. If we make it through this, I guess we can make it through pretty much anything!

It is a crazy year, 2007.
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Old 04-29-2007, 03:08 PM   #4
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Quote:
700,000 march against Turkish government

BENJAMIN HARVEY

Associated Press

April 29, 2007 at 2:09 PM EDT

ISTANBUL, Turkey — Some 700,000 Turks waving the red national flag flooded central Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government, saying the Islamic roots of Turkey's leaders threatened to destroy the country's modern foundations.

Like the protesters — who gathered for the second large anti-government demonstration in two weeks — Turkey's powerful secular military has accused Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan of tolerating radical Islamic circles.

“They want to drag Turkey to the dark ages,” said 63-year-old Ahmet Yurdakul, a retired government employee who attended the protest.

More than 300,000 people took part in a similar rally in Ankara two weeks ago. Police, who said Sunday's demonstrators numbered around 700,000, cordoned off the area and conducted body searches at several entry points.

Sunday's demonstration was organized more than a week ago, but it came a day after Mr. Erdogan's government rejected the military's warning about the disputed presidential election and called it interference that is unacceptable in a democracy.

The ruling party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, failed to win a first-round victory Friday in a parliamentary presidential vote marked by tensions between secularists and the pro-Islamic government. Most opposition legislators boycotted the vote and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court.

The military said Friday night that it was gravely concerned and indicated it was willing to become more openly involved in the process — a statement some interpreted as an ultimatum to the government to rein in officials who promote Islamic initiatives.

Sunday's crowd chanted that the presidential palace was “closed to imams.”

Some said Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc was an enemy of the secular system, because he said the next president should be “pious.”

In the 1920s, with the Ottoman Empire in ruins, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk imposed Western laws, replaced Arabic script with the Latin alphabet, banned Islamic dress and granted women the right to vote.

The ruling party, however, has supported religious schools and tried to lift the ban on Islamic head scarves in public offices and schools. Secularists are also uncomfortable with the idea of Gul's wife, Hayrunisa, being in the presidential palace because she wears the traditional Muslim head scarf.

“We don't want a covered woman in Ataturk's presidential palace,” said Ayse Bari, a 67-year-old housewife. “We want civilized, modern people there.”

The military, one of the most respected institutions in Turkey, regards itself as the guardian of the secular system and has staged three coups since 1960.

“Neither Sharia, nor coup but fully democratic Turkey,” read a banner carried by a demonstrator on Sunday.

Wow, those young democracies really do give a damn. Too bad we only talk a good game over here. Bravo to the Turks!!
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Old 04-30-2007, 12:54 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally posted by trevster2k
http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...rnational/home




Wow, those young democracies really do give a damn. Too bad we only talk a good game over here. Bravo to the Turks!!
Well, I wouldn't call Turkey a 'young democracy' since we've had multi-party elections since 1950 and a parliament since 1921. That's as old as any of the other states that emerged from imperial ruins after WW1.
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Old 04-30-2007, 02:32 PM   #6
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all_i_want, could you comment briefly on why the secular parties are apparently so much more fragmented than the Islamist-influenced ones? Also, in your opinion, to what degree is this a relatively narrow debate over the acceptability of religious influence on legislation (and the 10% barrier issue), versus to what degree is it a broader debate over unresolved questions as to what kind of country Turkey ought to be? The media here can't seem to make up their minds about the latter question, possibly because it's difficult not to analogize it to our own 'separation of church and state' struggles.
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Old 04-30-2007, 05:11 PM   #7
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the current political situation in turkey is in a way a by-product of the 1980 coup, in a way influenced by external influences and in a way by simple human greed for power.

firstly, a short intro to the parties. secular parties on the left (CHP-SHP-DSP), the right (ANAP-DYP-MHP) have messed up during their rules in the 90s, quite badly. CHP, the republican people's party is the one that started the country. SHP and DSP are spin offs from it, during the 70s and 80s. They more or less stand for the same thing, but have been unable to get together because of distrust between their leadership. they just dont want to give up their leadership posts, even if their parties are small as a result.

same goes for DYP and ANAP, which both come from the DP, democrat party, tradition, centre right. MHP is the nationalists, and theyve been around since the 70s.

there was also one fundamentalist party - with several incarnations, after it was closed down several times - RP, FP and SP, finally. The government currently belongs to a breakaway party from SP, its top leadership used to be a part of the fundamentalist party.

all of these parties-and their leadership- were influenced by the 1980 coup, which was a result of widespread violence between left wing and right wing gangs. thereafter, the military rule and its civil successors have effectively de-politicized the country - having seen what ideologies have done. this left the islamist movement relatively untouched, and consolidated, since soviet influence was seen as a much greater threat than islamic militancy back then.

ultimately, the islamist parties have also divided up, with AKP breaking away from SP. however, the voter base has remained consolidated, they saw how weak SP was and moved on to AKP. on the other hand, the voters for the secular parties have either not gone to the ballots or simply voted in a too diverse way - only 2 parties made it over 10%.

to reflect on this a bit, the religious voters are much more organized and motivated to vote - they believe they have a lot to win. this constitutes around 10-15% of the voters, but an organized minority, as they say, is a political majority. the secular voters have never really taken it upon themselves to defend the values of the republic and feel responsible for their own future, largely because of the belief that 'the army will never allow something bad to happen'. only now do we see the civilians taking action, which is quite heartening.

10% barrier was meant to impose some stability in political rule, but it has largely failed to do so. for more stability, we simply need better political movements and parties. i think it needs to be dropped to 5% to open the way for more representation in the parliament.

the usual debates over some of the legislation the AKP government has proposed, such as restricting alcohol sales, criminalizing adultery or removing the headscarf ban in public institutions, were narrow debates on policy - and AKP has been resoundly defeated on those issues. during this period, the president, ahmet necdet sezer, a staunchly secular former constitution judge, has vetoed a lot of the appointments and bills the parliament passed, because they were religiously motivated. now, AKP wants the president's post for themselves, effectively removing the checks and balances and allowing them to shape the country the way they would like to have it.

the possibility of AKP gaining such power has catapulted the issue from a few isolated cases to a larger issue - a threat on the way of life in turkey, and the republic. the government believes in giving religion and religious sentiment a much broader role in the society, while to the rest of us the lines are drawn very clearly.

the debate about how Turkey is ought to be has been settled a long time ago, the first 4 articles of the constitution clearly state these, however the AKP and people of their mindset are not willing to accept it. they would like to 'redefine' secularism and open the core principles of the republic to debate, and that is simply not acceptable.

on our side, the debate has been settled long ago and will not be re-opened. for them, its a different story. this issue has unfortunately divided Turkey for a long time, and seems unlikely to change any time soon. when the americans talk about 'a divided country' it makes me chuckle, because it is seen much more clearly in Turkey.
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Old 04-30-2007, 10:07 PM   #8
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Great, very informative post, thanks. I knew a little about the 1980 coup, but it had never occurred to me to connect that to the fragmentation of the secular bloc. Perhaps these protests will herald some increasing unification there...
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Old 04-30-2007, 10:42 PM   #9
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Then there is the historical dictotomy between the cosmopolitan, tourist haven, more "developed" western part of the country vs the more provincial, rugged, less developed and shall we say, more "interesting" (in the Chinese proverbial sense) eastern part of the country. All_I_Want, I'm not even going to GO there, as we Americans say .

To waht extent are the Islamists from the traditional "trouble" spots of the country, (Anatolia) and does that play a role?
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Old 05-01-2007, 05:43 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally posted by Teta040
Then there is the historical dictotomy between the cosmopolitan, tourist haven, more "developed" western part of the country vs the more provincial, rugged, less developed and shall we say, more "interesting" (in the Chinese proverbial sense) eastern part of the country. All_I_Want, I'm not even going to GO there, as we Americans say .

To waht extent are the Islamists from the traditional "trouble" spots of the country, (Anatolia) and does that play a role?
It used to be that most Islamists were living in the Anatolian hinterland - Turkey's equivalent of the 'Bible Belt', in a way. However, over the last 25 years we have seen a lot of migration from these parts of the country to the coastal cities, which means they are now more evenly spread. However, I wouldn't call all of Anatolia a 'troubled spot', it is more the southeast that could be labeled that way. It is worth noting that Islamist-oriented mayors have been elected in both Ankara and Istanbul in the last 12-15 years, one of them being none other that Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the current PM, himself.

There is an obvious correlation between the education/living standard of the people with how much into religion they are. However, with the emergence of the more religious people into Turkey's middle class, this correlation seems to be dissolving, albeit slowly.
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Old 05-01-2007, 05:59 AM   #11
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Originally posted by yolland
Great, very informative post, thanks. I knew a little about the 1980 coup, but it had never occurred to me to connect that to the fragmentation of the secular bloc. Perhaps these protests will herald some increasing unification there...
Actually, in both of the protests,on April 14th and April 29th, the crowd was calling on the secular parties to unite. We are already seeing some work towards this in the centre right, with ANAVATAN (old ANAP) and DYP aligning themselves more closely together - for example, on the presidential elections. they have also stated that they will merge and create a new entity, calling themselves the united democratic party (BDP).

the left is still more fragmented, with three parties - CHP, DSP and SHP. CHP has traditionally called on the others to 'close up shop' and join CHP, however this was by large not accepted. CHP and DSP, in the light of these protests, are very likely to join together in an alliance, if not a merger. SHP is sort of the lost soul out there, but they may be pulled into this bloc eventually.

whats left is MHP, the nationalist party. they are hardline nationalists, but nevertheless secularists. in the light of the rising nationalism in Turkey due to regional developments (northern iraq, cyprus, bad signals from the EU, support for Armenian claims in France and the US, you name it), they are likely to have a comeback - reclaiming some of the votes that went to AKP last election. if the other two blocs succeed, these guys will be out of the government, but in the parliament anyway.

then there is DTP, the polar opposite of MHP, since they are kind of a leftist-kurdish party. it is impossible for them to make it over the 10% barrier, which, some argue, was put in place specifically to keep them out, however they might make it over 5%. they are a major source of controversy and their emergence will add to MHP's appeals amongst the borderline nationalist crowd.

now, there are many other tiny parties (Turkey has over 35 political parties in total), who will never make it into the parliament, but exist anyway - because their leaders want to have a say in the media, as the leader of XYZ party. some of them are quite marginal, like the communist party(KP), labour party(IP), liberal democrats (LDP) and freedom and solidarity party (ODP) etc. some of them, like the aptly named 'young party' (GP) are more resemblent of a populist personality cult than a real political entity. ironically this party got 6% of the vote by adopting a ultra-nationalist, protectionist rhetoric last elections - despite the leader being a media mogul/ex-conglomerate owner - and handing out cash and doner kebab at their meetings! if they can steal some votes from AKP and MHP this way, they can be of critical importance. however, not likely to happen.

more on turkish political life, later
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Old 05-01-2007, 12:04 PM   #12
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The court decided, the presidential vote has been annulled, which means now the process will stop and elections will take place as soon as possible! This show the government that they cant simple 'conquer' the top post in the Republic. Now it is upto the people to hand the AKP a resounding defeat in the elections.

--------------------------------------------------------

Court annuls Turkish presidential vote

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkey's highest court on Tuesday annulled a parliamentary vote for an observant Muslim president, opening the way for possible early general elections.
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The ruling by the Constitutional Court follows enormous protests by hundreds of thousands of pro-secular Turks against the candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a senior member of the Islamic-rooted ruling party.

The government had hoped to strengthen its authority with Gul's bid to become Turkey's 11th president.

But the opposition Republican People's Party boycotted the first round of voting for president on Friday and asked for it to be canceled, arguing that the vote was invalid because a quorum of two-thirds of Turkey's 550 legislators was not present.

"We've canceled the first round. Whether the parliament will continue the vote or not, we can't know," court spokesman Hasim Kilic said. "Our court ruled that a quorum of 367 was necessary."

Ruling party figures have said they were considering early general elections to defuse tensions with the military-backed secular establishment. Media reports said the government planned an announcement later Tuesday.

At least 700,000 protesters marched in Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government.

Erdogan appealed for calm Monday in a national address, saying that Turkey must ensure its stability to safeguard its economic recovery.
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Old 05-02-2007, 02:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally posted by all_i_want
There is an obvious correlation between the education/living standard of the people with how much into religion they are.
interesting observation
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Old 05-05-2007, 02:01 PM   #14
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On May Day, the riot police arrested many workers and left-wing protesters in Istanbul. Here is the link:

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/6610665.stm

This is relevant to the larger debate about secularism and democracy we are having here. Since Western press - like the Economist - is quick to brandish AKP's 'democratic credentials', it got me thinking. Why is May Day suppressed so by the order of such a democratic government? We were discussing the latest events with a friend of mine, about democracy and secularism. There were some clashes between the police and May Day demonstrators, so I harked back to May 1st this month and questioned the democratic credentials of the so-called 'mildly Islamist' but 'democratic' AKP government. Considering its exam time these days, I put all my questions in an appropraite format and posed them. He decided not to answer any of them, so I gave him the cheat sheet for the exam. This proved to be a useful guide for the ideal AKP democrat, so if in doubt, they can just refer to this. There you go:

DEM 101 - Democracy 101

In English:

Q1
What's up with the May Day protests? Can the following be done in a democratic country?
a) Can May Day be outlawed?
b) Should the people of the country be tear gassed?
c) Should someone who is having lunch at a restaurant be bitch-slapped by the police?
d) Should the interior minister of the country praise the cop for doing this?
e) So-called democrats who rail against the army for being coup-prone, should they be silent in regards to all this?

Q2
a) If the government is so dedicated to democracy, why is the governor of Istanbul not fired?
b) Why hasn't the Interior Minister resigned amid all this?
c) Why hasn't the government said one-word about what happened?
d) Can the very democrat AKP answer for this?

Please answer both questions. Each question is worth 50% of the grade. You can answer in English or Turkish.
Good luck!

Name: AKP, Government of the Republic of Turkey
Number: 367
Exam: Democracy 101

Q1
What's up with the May Day protests? Can the following be done in a democratic country?

Yo, those dastardly demonstrators! Democracy is like a train, if I may say, a 'Democracy Express', one gets off when its necessary!

a) Can May Day be outlawed in a country?

It can be and it will be, as long as May Day is not changed into a right-wing, Islamist day where the faithful can parade and sing praises to the almighty, while beating up leftists, women, gays, judges and other reasonable people around them.

b) Should the people of the country be tear gassed?

Of course! When necessary, we should tear gas basically anyone! Tear gas is an excellent way of subduing big crowds who are shouting for your resignation. So, YES to tear gas! Especially if they are the leftists, workers, or people against our government, who are marching.

c) Should someone who is having lunch at a restaurant be bitch-slapped by the police?

Yeah, he was having lunch during prayer hours. A 'hand-of-God' kind of situation, if I may say. Also, the police might have been a bit too excited, so what? The citizen should've been not only bitch-slapped, but tied up and tasered til he was screaming 'Eşhedüenlaillaheillallah!'. That'd teach 'em.

d) Should the interior minister of the country praise the cop for doing this?

Hey, have you read the answer above? These questions of yours are becoming a bit irritating.. perhaps you deserve a good bitch-slapping yourself? The interior minister of course should stand behind his people, even if they are beating up his citizens. After all, those citizens wouldn't have voted for his government anyway!

e) So-called democrats who rail against the army for being coup-prone, should they be silent in regards to all this?

Erm.. this I can answer. I have answered all your questions as required, and we will see in the elections.. who is right in all this. Otherwise, I will be silent, since whatever I say would sound either a)ridiculous, b) damaging to AKP. Therefore, I refuse to answer, invoking the Alberto Gonzales defence. I don't recall!

Q2
a) If the government is so dedicated to democracy, why is the governor of Istanbul not fired?

Come on, if we fire people every time they supress a peaceful demonstration, how are we gonna teach a lesson to those dissidents? Since we can't go and beat up people who are walking for the republican principles, we need to get out the energy somehow. Moreover, I thank the governor for letting our boys get out all the energy they had locked in them and making an example of those lefties.

b) Why hasn't the Interior Minister resigned amid all this?

Why would he? He is obviously right in all this. Everyone else who disagrees is wrong and undemocratic. Damn those people, crying about losing their secular republic... they should just shut the fuck up and let us become a more democratic country!

c) Why hasn't the government said one-word about what happened?

Hey, the government invoked the 5th.. ahem.. one can refuse to answer questions or otherwise give testimony against himself or herself which will subject him or her to an incrimination. I'll have to plead the 5th on this one.

d) Can the very democrat AKP answer for this?

Erm.. no. AKP is also pleading the 5th. They can't just say they are glad it happened and they are sorry that they couldn't tear gas and beat up those millions of people who were walking against them now, can they? The sad part of being in a democracy is people disagree with you, and frankly, one day we won't have to take that anymore. That'll be time when we get off the 'Democracy Express'.

Bonus Question:
What is your take on the whole thing?

If 2 million people walked for secularism, we can easily gather 5 million to walk against it, so what? It's no biggie, all we've gotta do is pull a few strings and fly over people from Iran! We're in a democracy after all, aren't we?
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Old 05-07-2007, 05:21 AM   #15
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I think that turkey is a such a great place to visit, i think it becoming more islamist with certainly mess around with it... which will be sad, for the locals and for people wanting to visit!
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