Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan returned on 22 April from his 25th pilgrimage to Mecca to find tension rising again between the military and his Welfare Party (Refah). Earlier the same day, President Suleyman Demirel said only early general elections would resolve the situation, but complained he lacked constitutional powers to call them.
Erbakan the next day ruled out early elections. However, the premier faces a meeting scheduled on 26 April of the country’s National Security Council (NSC), at which the military is expected to review progress made by the conservative coalition on measures to curb Islamic assertiveness. The measures were demanded by the military in a memorandum at a previous NSC meeting at the end of February (MEED 14:3:97).
The tension began rising after a senior gendarme officer in front of television cameras strongly criticised Erbakan’s pilgrimage and Refah in general on 18 April, the first of a five-day holiday to mark the Islamic Eid al-Adha holiday. The high command refused to censure the officer, despite strong complaints by leading Refah figures that he had overstepped the bounds of his uniform.