The Turkish Constitutional Court's ruling against a ban on the AK Party has averted a potential crisis in Turkey, but the narrow margin of the verdict: just two votes. That shows how close the secularist old guard came to staging a judicial coup against the ruling party. The self-appointed guardians of Turkish secularism the army and the judiciary view the AK Party and its leaders, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and President Abdullah Gul, with suspicion and accuse them of harboring a hidden agenda to turn Turkey into an Islamist state. The Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, or Justice and Development Party, is called the AKP or AK Party by its members and supporters because 'AK' means 'white' in Turkish, a term used to signify cleanliness, integrity, and honesty. On July 30, Turkey's Constitutional Court voted six to five against the proposal to permanently ban the AK Party and to prohibit its top leaders from participating in political affairs for five years. Only seven votes were required to shut the party down and with it perhaps the bright economic future awaiting Turkey. Since Mustafa Kemal Ataturk founded the Republic of Turkey on October 29, 1923, the Turkish army, with the help of its collaborators, has dismissed four democratically elected governments, either by direct means or by indirectly orchestrating their downfall. Had the last holdouts of Turkey's "deep state" and their cronies succeeded in their attempt to ban a party that has scored two successive electoral victories, it would have dealt a mortal blow to Turkish democracy, unleashing a political hurricane and a social malaise that would have opened the door to extremism. In addition, it could have given the generalissimos crazy ideas about trying to pull off one last military takeover, since they are extremely distraught over the fact that power is slipping from their hands and there is almost no chance to turn back the clock. Fortunately, all this has been avoided, at least for the time being, and the Constitutional Court's decision has allowed everyone to heave a sigh of relief. The AK Party is not really a sanctuary for fundamentalists, as its opponents claim, but a moderate, conservative, modernizing, progressive, pro-Western party that advocates a liberal market economy and Turkish membership in the European Union. It reflects the culture of the Turks, a Muslim people who, despite 80 years of the Kemalists' secular onslaught, remain firmly attached to their Muslim faith. And the AKP's democratic credentials are unassailable since they secured 47 percent of the popular vote and 341 of the parliament's 550 seats in the July 2007 polls. Prime Minister Erdogan, who along with 70 other AKP deputies, faced the prospect of being banned from politics for five years, told the local press after the verdict, "A great uncertainty blocking Turkey's future has been lifted," adding that he would "continue to protect the fundamental principles of our republic." With the sword of Damocles no longer hanging over their heads, AKP leaders can now focus on more serious issues like the economy, reform, efforts to enhance social cohesion, and the country's bid to join the European Union. And the aging generalissimos can dream of their "glory days" that will never return. The writer is political columnist based in Tehran. E-mail: