Turkish Military Says Secularism Under Attack by 'Centers of Evil'

Turkey's staunchly secular military said Monday that secularism is under attack by "centers of evil" in a strong warning one day ahead of the expected election to the presidency of a candidate with a background in political Islam.

Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military's Web site that "our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can't embrace Turkey's unitary nature, and (the behavior of) centers of evil who systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic."

The statement came one day before the expected election to the presidency of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, whose bid for the post in a parliamentary voting process earlier this year was blocked by the secular establishment because of concerns about his Islamic past.

The army has also been fighting autonomy-seeking rebels of the Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, in the country's predominantly Kurdish southeast since 1984.

The military statement was issued to mark the 85th anniversary on Aug. 30 of a military victory that was crucial for the establishment of modern Turkey.

"Nefarious plans to ruin Turkey's secular and democratic nature emerge in different forms everyday," Buyukanit said in the statement.

"The military will, just as it has so far, keep its determination to guard social, democratic and secular Turkey," Buyukanit said.

Monday's statement recalled a military warning issued in April during the height of the debate about Gul's bid for presidency.

In the earlier statement, the military said it was concerned about the future of Turkey's secular traditions and hinted it could intervene to guard them.

Gul is likely to be Turkey's 11th president after a third round of presidential voting in the Parliament on Tuesday.

He withdrew his earlier bid in the face of mounting criticism from the secular opposition, which was backed by the military and the top court. Huge crowds took to the streets in major cities and demanded that Gul revoke his candidacy for the post.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan —who had picked Gul as his candidate— called early general elections to defuse tensions. The elections were held July 22, and Erdogan's ruling party won a resounding victory, which most analysts here interpreted as the people's support for Gul's candidacy.

Gul renewed his presidential bid after the elections. In the first two rounds of voting, he failed to get support from two-thirds of the Parliament, which was required to be elected for the post.

But he will need only a simple majority in the third round Tuesday. His party holds 341 of the 550 seats in Parliament.