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AKP gets short shrift from secularist military

Ozkok: "The secular, democratic and unitary
structure of the Turkish republic are subjects on
which the military will never compromise."

General Hilmi Ozkok, Turkey's army chief of staff, last month expressed his displeasure at prime minister Abdullah Gul's interference in army policy towards Islamist officers. In a speech he made at the military's annual party for the media (Islamist journalists are not invited) Ozkok said Gul's attitude would "indubitably encourage those who got mixed up in recidivist [meaning Islamic fundamentalist] activities".

This was not AKP's first brush with the military since its election victory. Earlier, the generals had vetoed the appointment of an Islamist university rector as education minister. They also persuaded the party leadership that electing an ex-officer expelled from the forces for religious reasons as chairman of the Meclis defence committee was not a good idea.

These clashes, though, are the exception rather than the rule. Overall the AKP leadership, in particular party leader Tayyip Erdogan, has bent over backwards not to upset the army. The generals overthrew Turkey's first Islamist government in 1977 and Erdogan and his senior colleagues know that they will not hesitate to do so again if they detect the beginning of a process of Islamization of the government.

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