EU press comments on President Gül

The European Union's press gave a guarded welcome Wednesday to Turkey's election of Islamist Abdullah Gul as president, questioning whether he will be able to deal with the country's army.

EU press comments on President Gül
The European Union's press gave a guarded welcome Wednesday to Turkey's election of Abdullah Gul as president, questioning whether he will be able to deal with the country's army.

"With his air of an oriental George Clooney - though bushier in the hair and moustache than his Hollywood lookalike - Abdullah Gul has a frank look and a wide, reassuring smile," Belgian daily La Libre Belgique wrote.

But his election "thumbs a nose at the military and the (secular) apparatus who blocked his rise to power in the spring in a way which was hardly democratic," the daily added.

This spring, Gul's Islamist-rooted AKP party nominated him for the country's presidency. Secular political parties boycotted the vote, forcing elections in July in which AKP scored a resounding victory.

And the tension between the army, which sees itself as the guardian of the secular constitution, and their new commander-in- chief is the main theme in many leading articles across Europe.

"Satisfaction and fear were the feelings which dominated in many Turks ... Satisfaction because Gul, a reformist and moderate Islamist, is a popular politician, and fear because the threat of the powerful Turkish Armed Forces hangs over his election," Spain's El Pais added.

"For the army, Gul's election is a black scenario ... The outcome of the elections is a signal that Turks have had enough of the army's interference in politics," Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza added.

The debate over Gul's own intentions within Turkey - whether to support the country's secular traditions or to promote a creeping Islamization - is also highlighted in many of Europe's papers.

"To judge by his actions in government (as foreign minister), he is a pragmatic democrat, rather than a Muslim fundamentalist. But there are many who do not trust his charming exterior, and who suspect that he has a 'hidden agenda' whose aim is to strengthen the role of Islam in society," Sweden's Dagens Nyheter said.

"Gul's election (shows) that the military is weakened, while the rules of democracy are strengthened, which is welcome; but the Islamists now have the upper hand, and that is worrying," Austrian daily Der Standard wrote.

But the verdict in many of Europe's papers is nonetheless favourable, with Gul's background as a pro-European foreign minister.

"The indications so far are that the entrenched fears of this element of Turkish society are largely unfounded ... Mr Gul, who is the country's long-serving foreign minister, (has) done little or nothing to suggest that (he has) a secret Islamist agenda," Britain's The Times wrote.

It is a cautious verdict, with Britain's Daily Telegraph warning that "Mr Gul has promised to avoid divisive confrontations with the military. He will face tests of this commitment early and often."

"The fate of the AKP and the country will be decided by whether the party, (Prime Minister Recep Tayyip) Erdogan and Gul can reinforce and build on the economic and political successes of the last legislature," Germany's Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung added.

But the fact that Turkey is a secular democracy with a Muslim population is seen as setting an example to the whole Islamic world.

"Turkey seems to be on the way to solving by democratic means the political crisis provoked by the election of a man who comes from the Islamist movement as head of state," France's Le Monde commented.

"You have to admit that since they came to power, Erdogan and Abdullah Gul have favoured Turkey's economic development and a rapprochement with the EU, proving that Islam is soluble in democracy," La Libre Belgique added.

"In this time of religious radicalization, the Turkish laboratory is not just valuable: it's vital," the paper concluded.

DPA
Last Mod: 29 Ağustos 2007, 22:13
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