Turkey on the Brink

Yesterday’s explosions in Istanbul that killed 17 people and injured more than 150 others took place in the context of the extremely tense Supreme Court deliberations that could outlaw Turkey’s ruling moderate Islamic AKP party. (The Hurriyet article I flagged points out that the Court has other options at its disposal that range from dismissing the case, as the non-binding court reporter recommended, to simply imposing a fine or removing the party’s public financing.) At the risk of oversimplifying, the case grows out of the longstanding tug of war between Turkey’s increasingly popular religious parties and its “old guard” secular elites in the military, government and academia.

What makes this showdown different is the government’s pursuit of the so-called Ergenekon network, which is accused of being a rightwing-secularist shadow organization that plotted the overthrow of the government a few years back. A number of former generals have been implicated in the case, and again at the risk of oversimplifying, it has been represented in some quarters as the AKP’s pushback against the Supreme Court case. What’s noteworthy is that the indictment in the Ergenekon case, accepted by an Istanbul court on Friday, includes alleged links between the network and the Kurdish separatist PKK movement responsible for previous terrorist bombings similar to this weekend’s, as well as with other terrorist organizations.

There’s quite a bit at stake here, both domestically and regionally, and both sides are playing a hardnosed game of chicken. Definitely one to keep your eyes on.

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