ANKARA (Reuters)–Turkey’s powerful armed forces said on Monday efforts were being made daily to undermine the secular republic, commen’s coming a day before parliament is expected to elect a former Islamist as president.
The statement struck an ominous tone ahead of Tuesday’s presidential vote and suggested the military will not stand on the sidelines if it sees secularism threatened. It was not clear whether the commen’s were linked directly to the election.
"Unfortunately every day in different ways appear furtive plans which aim to undo the modern advances and ruin the Turkish republic’s secular and democratic structure," chief of General Staff, General Yasar Buyukanit, said in a statement published on August 27 to mark Victory Day on August 30.
Turkey’s military considers itself the ultimate guardian of the secular republic. It has ousted four governmen’s in the past 60 years, one as recently as 1997, that it considered too Islamist.
"The Turkish Armed Forces, as up until now, will never sway from its determined stance and its duty of protecting and watching over the democratic, secular … Turkish Republic," Buyukanit said.
Turkey’s military and secular elite have opposed the candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as head of state because of his Islamist past and the fact his wife wears the Muslim headscarf, seen by secularists as a provocative symbol of religion.
European Union-applicant Turkey is a predominantly Muslim country but has a strictly secular constitution.
Turkey’s parliament holds a third round of voting to elect the next president on Tuesday. Gul, a respected diplomat who has pledged to uphold secularism, is expected to win enough votes to be sworn in as the next head of state.