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Settling the dispute over Islam's role in Turkey
Can secularists and religious politicians make peace?
W

hat happened
Turkey’s highest court narrowly ruled against shutting down the ruling Justice and Development Party. The country’s chief prosecutor had accused the party of illegally trying to transform Turkey’s secular democracy into an Islamic state. (International Herald Tribune)

What the commentators said
Let’s hope this split ruling ends the “political uncertainty” that has paralyzed Turkey for months, said Elizabeth Stewart in the British daily The Guardian. The court didn’t give Turkey's secular elite what it wanted, but it did cut half of the state funding for the ruling Islamic party of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. That should be an effective warning against continuing to push Islam into public life.

The governing party has already adopted a “more moderate and calm position,” said Metehan Demir in the Turkish daily Hurriyet. The question is what it will do next. It can keep Turkey on the right path by holding early elections to restore confidence, while getting the opposition to give a little by accepting constitutional amendments to “toughen conditions for party closure.”

The fundamental divide between Turkey’s secular and religious forces is still a problem, said Ernesto Londono and Zehra Ayman in The Washington Post. Six of the 11 judges did vote to close the party—one short of the number required—and the court’s chairman said there was credible evidence that party leaders had undermined secularism.

Striking a political peace won’t be easy, said Bulent Kenes in the Turkish daily Today’s Zaman. The secularists in the Ergenekon terrorist organization have resorted to violence to subvert the will of the voters who put Erdogan in power. Peace can only come when everyone accepts “the merit of democracy.”

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