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Principles come at a price

The strength of Islamists in the ruling AKP lay behind the Turkish legislature’s refusal to bend to US military strategy. The consequences may be dire for the Turkish economy and terminal for the AKP government.

TAYYIP ERDOGAN MAY go down in Turkish history as the first prime minister whose use-by date had passed before he even took office.

For three months after Erdogan's Justice & Development Party won a landslide victory in November last year he was in power but not in office. Erdogan had not been able to stand because a jail term he served for inciting religious hatred disqualified him from becoming a candidate.

He ruled via Abdullah Gul, a perpetually smiling, soft-spoken politician, who became prime minister instead.

Erdogan had to wait more than three months before parliament could pass legislation enabling him to become a candidate at a by-election in Siirt constituency close to the Iraqi border.

Having been elected, he was installed as prime minister at the beginning of last month. Gul then became deputy prime minister and foreign minister.

By this time, however, the AKP had demonstrated that it was incompetent and indecisive, and was showing signs of serious splits.

The AKP, which has its roots in closed Islamic fundamentalist parties, has many enemies in the Turkish establishment, including the fiercely secular Turkish generals. The party contains many shades of Islam ranging from pragmatists (including Erdogan) to hardliners who would like to replace the secular constitution with a government that is based on the Quran and the Sharia.

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