The BBC is reporting that Turkish police halt May Day rally
Turkish police have broken up a May Day march by left-wing demonstrators in the commercial capital Istanbul and made many arrests.
Police fired tear gas to prevent a rally taking place on Taksim Square, the Associated Press reports. The Europeans have argued to let things take their course. That strikes me as very naive. The Turkish army seems underwhelmed with the argument.
EU warning as Turkey faces crisis
The EU has warned Turkey’s military to stay out of politics, as weekend clashes threatened the country’s most serious political crisis in a decade.
Around half a million people marched through Istanbul on Sunday to show support for Turkey’s secular system.
Demonstrators also demanded the resignation of the government, which has its roots in political Islam.
The protest came after the powerful general staff, which has intervened four times in the last 50 years to topple governments, said it was watching the parliamentary election of a new president with concern.
This led to a warning to the Turkish military from EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn.
“It is important that the military leaves the remit of democracy to the democratically-elected government and this is the test case if the Turkish armed forces respect democratic secularism and the democratic arrangement of civil-military relations,” he said.
Rehn said he was studying carefully the unusually sharp statement by military commanders and recalled that respect for democracy was a condition of Turkey’s EU candidacy.
“The timing is rather surprising and strange. It is important that the military respects also the rules of the democratic game and its own role in that democratic game.”
Rehn, who was speaking in Brussels, said secular democracy held a very high value for the EU and was the core of Turkey’s “Europeanistation” project.
One of the key criteria for EU membership is civilian control over the armed forces.
His comments were echoed by commission president José Manuel Barroso.
“We hope that one day Turkey can join the EU but for that, Turkey has to be a real European country,” he said.
At a news conference today, a commission spokesman stressed that the right to demonstrate was a “democratic freedom” but declined to comment any further on Sunday’s protests.
Commentators said the turnout of Sunday’s protest illustrated the depth of feeling that had been stirred in Turkey.