In anticipation of tomorrow’s parliamentary vote in which Turkish lawmakers are expected to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul to the country’s presidency, a largely ceremonial position, the Turkish military has again warned that it may oppose the move. The military considers itself the inheritor of Kemal Ataturk’s legacy and the protector of Turkey’s secular system. Gul is a devout Muslim, whose wife wears a head scarf, a particularly polarizing symbol in Turkish society. Although the foreign minister says he supports Turkey’s secular system, few in uniform appear to take him at his word. General Yasar Buyukanit, the chief of the country’s armed forces, has warned that “centers of evil” are “trying to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic.” He did not name any of these centers of evil, but his meaning was clear enough.
The military issued a similar warning on its website last April during Gul’s first run at the presidency. The resulting furor led to early elections in July, which reaffirmed the ruling AK Party’s popularity. The party then renominated Gul for the presidency over the military’s objections.
There have been four military coups in Turkey since 1960.