Balkans: The Revolt Of The Judges

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May 20, 2008: Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)apparently believes the Constitutional Court will ban it sometime in the coming months. This amounts to toppling the Turkish government by judicial decision-so it is very big news. Why will it be banned? For supporting "Islamist policies." Turkey's secular republic is founded on Kemalist principles (named after Kemal Ataturk, Turkey's 20th century revolutionary leader). The Kemalists are deeply suspicious of "political Islam" - and with good historical reason. The Constitutional Court has the responsibility of defending "secularist principles" in Turkey. The case that may lead to banning the AKP involves the AKP's decision to allow Muslim women to wear headscarfs in Turkish colleges. Turkish secularists see the headscarf as a symbol of the political Islamists goal (in the secularists' view) of returning Turkey to Islamic law. To some the headscarf is a symbol of women being second-class citizens. Ataturk made the inclusion of Turkish women in politics one of his key reformist goals. The AKP is a very moderate Muslim party and its leader, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is regarded as a reliable ally of western European countries and the US. The AKP favors Turkish membership in the European Union. The AKP does have two factions, a conservative (more Islamist) faction and a "reformist" (less Islamist) faction. Many members of the AKP once belonged to the Welfare (Refah) Party. The court banned the Welfare Party in 1998 - for "anti-secular activities."

May 16, 2008: The EU said that its support group would not be able to take over security and security-advisory operations from the United Nations mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) in late June. The EU had planned to take over the mission by mid-2008..

May 12, 2008: Gunshots were fired at Macedonian opposition leader Ali Ahmeti as he toured predominantly ethnic Albanian villages in western Macedonia. Ahmeti is an ethnic Albanian. Ahmeti's Democratic Union for Integration Party (DUIP) has been involved in a bitter political struggle with the more radical Democratic Party of Albanians (DPA).

May 11. 2008: A coalition of Serbian parties (led by the moderate-liberal Democratic Party) that favor integration with Western Europe won Serbia's key parliamentary elections. It may take a few weeks to sort out the exact arrangements in Serbia's 250-seat parliament. The "pro-Western" parties, however, will have to ally with Serbia's various ethnic minority parties to secure a majority in parliament. There is also the distant possibility that no government will be formed and new elections must be called. Under any circumstances, the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party lost, which is why Serb Radical leaders are hoping that new elections will have to be called or that they can somehow cobble together a "nationalist" coalition government in which they participate. A possible candidate for a Radical partner would be the conservative Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS). Many European commentators are arguing that since the Radicals lost, "Russia lost" the Serbian election – meaning Russia will have less influence on a pro-Western Serb government. That is likely true. Another outcome: the begrudging acceptance of an independent Kosovo.

April 30, 2008: Several relatives of Muslim survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica slaughter in Bosnia attacked the EU for signing a "pre-membership agreement" with Serbia. The Bosniaks argue that Serbia has not yet accepted responsibility for the war in Bosnia and the murder of tens of thousands of Bosnian Muslims. The "pre-membership agreement" is something of a carrot for Serbian democrats, who face anti-Western ultranationalists in the upcoming May 11 national elections. The idea is that a promise of eventual EU membership will attract swing voters.

April 22, 2008: The initial promise of talks between the government of Moldova and leaders of Transdniestria now appear to have been too optimistic. Relations between Moldova and Russia, however, have improved, which may bode well for an eventual political settlement. Moldova is offering Transdniestria "the broadest possible autonomy" within a Moldovan state.

 

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