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Gul receives cold military reception

Gul receives cold military reception

Ex-Islamist Abdullah Gul's first encounter as president with the staunchly secularist Turkish army got off to a shaky start yesterday when the top brass broke with tradition and failed to salute him at a military ceremony, one day after his turbulent election to the post.
Gul, who is deeply mistrusted by hardline secularists in this mainly Muslim country, joined army chief Yasar Buyukanit and other top generals at a graduation ceremony at the military's prestigious GATA medical academy here.
Buyukanit accompanied Gul inside and the president cordially shook hands with the top commanders, but the army chief and several other generals pointedly failed to give the customary salute to Gul as they mounted the podium to present diplomas to graduates, the NTV news channel reported.
As president, Gul is also commander-in-chief of the armed forces.
He attended the ceremony without his wife Hayrunnisa, whose Islamic-style headscarf is seen by many here as flouting the secular nature of the republic, enshrined in the constitution.
Gul, 56, who was foreign minister for the past five years, was elected president in a parliamentary vote Tuesday despite strong objections by army-backed hardline secularists because of his past in political Islam.
He took office a few hours after his election with pledges to remain impartial and stay true to the country's secular fabric, but in a strong sign of discontent, the army, senior members of the judiciary and top academics snubbed his swearing-in ceremony.
Military maneuvers
The military was a major player in the campaign that blocked Gul's first bid for the presidency in April, plunging the country into turmoil and triggering snap general elections on July 22.
When the ruling Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) first nominated Gul for the presidency in April, the opposition boycotted the vote and the army warned that it could intervene to defend the secular order.
The AKP, the conservative offshoot of a now banned Islamist party, won the election comfortably and saw in the result popular approval for Gul.
The AKP has disawoved its Islamist past and says it is now fully committed to the basic tenets of the republic, including secularism.
But hardline secularists suspect the AKP of harboring ambitions to undermine the separation of state and religion and fear that with Gul at the presidency and the AKP in all the top posts, the way has been paved.
In a conciliatory message to the army, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for unity for the greater good of the country.
"I would like to once again emphasize that we need more than ever to set our differences aside and unite around the values of our nation, the tenets of the Republic and our common targets," read Erdogan's statement, issued to mark Victory Day today.
Gul was scheduled to meet Erdogan at 4:00 p.m. (Turkish time) yesterday to approve the new cabinet made up of members of the AKP, of which he was a member before being elected president.
That is expected to be a smooth procedure, but analyst warn that Gul is unlikely to have an easy start to his presidency and must fulfil his pledge of upholding secularism if he wants to bridge rifts in a society deeply divided by his Islamist past.


Updated : 2021-04-14 22:49 GMT+08:00