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Turkey's New President Presides Over Military Victory Ceremony


Turkey's new president presided over a ceremony marking the 85th anniversary of the final battle in the 1922 Turkish War of Independence. As Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul, President Abdullah Gul sat next to the country's top military leader, two days after the military boycotted Mr. Gul's swearing-in ceremonies.

Hundreds of Turkish soldiers along with tanks and armored cars rumbled through the streets of Istanbul marking the 85th anniversary of a victory over Greek forces in the Turkish war of independence.

Thousands of people from both the secular and religious sectors of Turkish society stood shoulder to shoulder.

One woman, wearing a traditional Muslim headscarf, seen by secularists as a threat to the separation of state and religion, said she is proud of the army.

She said "I have come to see our wonderful army, its there to protect us, and our country, I am so happy to see them."

But, she also says she supports the newly-elected President Abdullah Gul and the ruling Justice and Development party.

The country's army, which sees itself as guardian of the secular state, has spoken out against the party. And, earlier this week, on the eve of President Gul's election by the parliament, the head of the armed forces, General Yasar Buyukanit, warned of "centers of evil" in Turkey threatening the secular state.

Despite such tensions, however, opinion polls consistently place the army as the most trusted institution.

Islamic talk show host and professor of politics Murat Ciftkaya says such support crosses all religious and political borders.

"In Turkey we have respect for the authority from all ideological sides. For example the father figure, however bad your father is, you are taught to respect him, that is just like the army or the state in Turkey," said Ciftkaya.

The army has not been reluctant to use their power to intervene in Turkish politics. Since 1960 they have ousted four governments. With tensions high again between the army and government, there are fears of another intervention.

But political analyst Dogu Ergil says he believes the landslide victory last month by the ruling Justice and Development party precludes any intervention.

"It seems that the people that they serve for does not endorse, their fears and worries, I think that they should abide by that," said Ergil.

Political observers say the army's staunchest ally is the Turkish public. But, with the Justice and Development party recent victory, the military appears to have few options other than keeping the government under close scrutiny.

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