The conflict had been simmering for some time, from last year’s controversial election of Abdullah Gül to the presidency until this spring when the AKP, with the support of ultranationalist National Action Party (MHP), lifted a ban on women wearing a veil in state-run universities.
The Court’s decision was very difficult but quick, which shows what impact recent and future attacks and international pressure from the United States and the European Union can have. Both Washington and Brussels sought to avoid political instability looming over this vast area.
In order to ensure that the old establishment was not humiliated, a classic Solomonic solution was found, namely a monetary fine coupled with a 50 per cent cut in public funding for the AKP. The initial demand was for the outright ban of the AKP with 71 of its leaders barred from any political activity for five years.
The final ruling said that the AKP had become the “focal point” for anti-secular activities but that was not reason enough for a ban and so it only got a monetary slap-on-the-wrist.
All ends with the payment of “small change”, which businessmen from Kayseri (central Turkey) who are the AKP’s financial backers, will pay up with interests.
Right after the sentence was announced Erdoğan said that ‘it was a victory for democracy.” But so far he has only won a battle, not the war.
Commenting the ruling the President of the Constitution Court Haşim Kılıç said for instance that the decision represented a major “warning”.
General Yaşar Büyükanıt, current Chief of the Turkish General Staff, did not directly comment on the decision but did say that “nothing changes the role of the army in Turkish affairs.”
A statement by Deniz Baykal, leader of the Republican People's Party (CHP), the main Kemalist opposition party, were in line with that of the president of the Constitutional Court.
Around the world reactions were favourable, especially in Cyprus, where the Turkish government is actively involved in trying to find a peaceful solution to the island’s division.
Notwithstanding the euphoria of the moment, diplomatic and press sources readily admit that the post-sentence phase will not be easy. On the one hand, the government must show that it is sincerely committed to speeding up reforms for a real democratisation of Turkish society; on the other, the old establishment, which is closely aligned with military circles, must show that it can renew itself in terms of ideas and people.