In secular Turkey, the military has always been the foremost defender of secularism. It has carried out coups in the past against regimes that tried to weaken Kemalist secularism and impose Sharia. Now Erdogan is moving to make that impossible, and Barack Obama is pleased.
WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama has praised Turkey for revising its secular constitution.
Obama telephoned Prime Minister Recep Erdogan during the referendum that called for the revision of Turkey’s constitution on Sept. 12. About 58 percent of voters supported Erdogan’s drive to reform the constitution to reduce the power of the military and increase the influence of the prime minister’s pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party.
“The president also acknowledged the vibrancy of Turkey’s democracy as reflected in the turnout for the referendum that took place across Turkey today,” a White House statement said on Sept. 12.
Officials said Obama regards Erdogan as one of the president’s leading allies in the Islamic world. They said the administration viewed the referendum as a reaffirmation of Turkish democracy and government control of the military.
On Sept. 14, the British daily Daily Telegraph reported that Iran has agreed to donate up to $25 million to Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party. The newspaper said Iran, in negotiations with Erdogan himself, has pledged to donate $12 million to the ruling Turkish party, with an additional $13 million to be relayed later in 2010. Turkey has denied the report….
In contrast, the administration has supported Erdogan’s drive to eliminate the military’s influence on the Turkish government as well as civilian life. Officials said the prime minister’s effort was serving as a model for Islamic democracy.
“We hope that through these reforms, it will further enhance Turkey’s democratic processes and human rights protection,” State Department spokesman Philip Crowley said. “This was a choice for the Turkish people, and there was a very strong, decisive vote to move towards greater civilian oversight of these democratic institutions.”