Turkey's Unending Political Crisis

ISTANBUL: After months of tension that almost triggered military intervention, Turkey has reached a crossroads. The crisis grows from one pivotal question: Must democracy be secular?

Turkey's military and political old guard claim that the modern system introduced by Kemal Ataturk to replace the Ottoman caliphate almost 75 years ago separates mosque and state. Article 2 of the Constitute declares Turkey's secular identity; Article 4 says Article 2 can never be changed.

Yet the largest bloc of voters in the December 1993 democratic elections, which were weighted in favor of traditional political parties, supported Refah, or Welfare, Turkey's largest Islamist party. Despite weeks of efforts by the same traditional elites to block it, Refah went on to form a coalition government. The most secular state in the Muslim world suddenly had an Islamist prime minister, Necmettin Erbakan, who espoused some openly Islamist goals.

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