Turkey's Constitutional Court rejected demands to close the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Wednesday but issued "a serious warning" for the AKP. Hasim Kilic, the court chairman, said the political parties should make legal arrangements to toughen conditions for party closure and urged for national unity. The Turkish prime minister welcomed the decision and admitted that everybody, especially politicians, has responsibilities in the coming period. (UPDATED)
Six members voted in favor of closing the party, the court chairman told at a press conference. Hasim Kilic said he voted against the closure, while the remaining four members of the court said the AKP has shown signs of being a focal point of anti-secular activities but not in an extent to deserve to be closed. At least seven members must vote in favor for a party closure.
"Six members of the Constitutional Court voted for closure of the political party while four others voted for depriving the party of the financial assistance of the Treasury instead of its dissolution. Accordingly, the AKP will be deprived of the financial assistance with an amount of half of the last assistance," he said.
Kilic said the court decided to cut financial aid to the party. He added "a serious warning" given to the AKP. He urged political parties to make the necessary legal arrangements to avoid any further party closure cases.
"It is not a decision to close down the party, but it is a serious warning," he said, adding he hopes the AKP will evaluate this outcome very well and get the message it should get.
He urged every actor in the country to take necessary steps to reduce tension. We believe that all segments of society should put effort to achieve the conditions of living together after the decision, he said.
We cant tell any of us is happy with the decision. The subject of amending constitution is always debated more when a party closure case comes to the agenda. We would wish that these amendments had been done before reaching todays condition."
A closure case was filed against the ruling party in March on claims that it became the focal point of anti-secular activities.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan said the court's ruling removed uncertainities before Turkey, and pledged commitment to the secular system. "The Justice and Development Party (AKP), which has never been a focal point of anti-secular activities, will continue to defend the basic principles of the republic," Erdogan said.
"Turkey has lost serious time and energy since March 14 (when the closure case was filed). What we need to do is to focus on the future without sticking on the past and compensate for what we lost in the meantime."
He said everyone, beginning with politicians, has a big responsibility to not to allow Turkey to fall into a similar situation, and admitted his party also have responsibilities. "It is not only the AKP, but also Turkey has survived from a major injustice."
AKP has become the 18th political party to avoid closure by the Constitutional Court in Turkey.
Faruk Celik, Labor Minister, said Turkish democracy has won, in reaction to the ruling.
This ruling raised the democracy bar to a higher level, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan told CNNTurk. "A serious sense of relief will be felt in Turkey," he added.
"Ten members defined the AKP as the focal point of anti-secular activities," Deniz Baykal, Turkey's main opposition CHP leader, told CNNTurk, and added the court had not solved the crisis.
"Premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the AKP administrators should take lessons and see that having problems with the constitutional order and the foundation principles of the state can jeopardize the democratic regime." ntionalist opposition leader Devlet Bahceli said in a statement.
Turkey's AKP received 45.6 million YTL ($39 million) of Treasury assistance from the budget of 2008.
In accordance with regulations, the state has to pay the financial assistance to political parties within ten days after the budget enters into force.
Three political parties had the right to get financial assistance according to the votes they gained in the general elections in 2007. They were AKP, the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
THE RULING AKP
AKP entered the Turkish political scene on Aug 14, 2001 under the leadership of Tayyip Erdogan. The AKP entered the general elections of Nov 3, 2002, and it defeated all other parties by winning 34 percent of the vote.
Thirty-four percent of the national vote gave AKP 363 seats in the 550-seat parliament. After the interim election in the southeastern province of Siirt and new participation in the party, AKP's number of seats rose to 367.
Following the 58th government of the Republic of Turkey, set up under the leadership of Abdullah Gul, AKP Chairman Erdoğan was elected to the parliament in the interim election in Siirt and became the prime minister of Turkey's 59th government.
In the local elections on March 28, 2004, AKP increased its 34 percent vote in the Nov 3, 2002 elections to 42 percent.
AKP won 46.6 percent of the popular vote and allocated 341 seats in July 22, 2007 general elections.