Turkey’s Islamic president
Turkey's Islamic-oriented ruling party on Monday decided to nominate Abdullah Gul again for president despite strong opposition to his candidacy, a party official said.
13 Ağustos 2007 23:55
When Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan proposed Gul as his party's candidate the last time, it ignited a backlash from the secular opposition, which accused Gul of having an agenda to scrap the secular traditions of the predominantly Muslim nation.
Murat Mercan, a senior party official, confirmed Gul's candidacy after a party meeting Monday. "Gul is a statesman who has great experience," Mercan told private CNN-Turk television. "I believe he would be very successful."
Gul's candidacy signals that Erdogan's party apparently bowed to pressure from grass-root supporters despite serious concerns raised by secular circles about Gul's candidacy.
It was Gul's candidacy that triggered a political crisis months ago, forcing the government to hold early parliamentary elections. The choice of candidate had alarmed the military-backed, secular establishment, which accused the government of seeking a lock on power so it could impose Islamic ways unchecked.
Erdogan's party won a majority of seats in July 22 elections, but it did not secure the two-thirds need to approve a presidential candidate alone during the first two rounds of parliamentary voting.
However, the president can be elected by a simple majority in the third round of voting if the parliament secures a quorum of lawmakers necessary for presidential elections. Cihan Pacaci, a senior member of the Nationalist Action Party, reiterated that his party pledged support to reach a quorum to prevent a new political crisis. "I don't see a chaos ahead," Pacaci told private NTV television Monday.
Still, Gul's nomination showed that the government could be heading toward another showdown with secularists, including the military.
"It is not appropriate to have a president who has problems with the founding philosophy of the Turkish Republic," Deniz Baykal, leader of the main opposition pro-secular Republican People's Party, said earlier Monday.
The job of president is critical to overall control of the state. The post is largely ceremonial, but the incumbent has the power to veto legislative bills and government appointments. President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, the current president, often frustrated the government by blocking its initiatives.
Onur Oymen, a senior member of the Republican People's Party, said Gul's candidacy amounted to a serious threat to the secular principles of the country.
"Gul's candidacy was not expected to contribute to peace and stability in the country," Oymen told private NTV television after the decision was announced.
Gul's wife wears an Islamic style headscarf, which many secular Turks regard as a symbol of political Islam and use as a reason why he should not become president.
Baykal, however, said the outfit of Gul's wife was not the real problem.
"In my opinion, the outfits of his wife is not an issue. Any one who can give confidence about the inside of his head can be" a candidate, Baykal said.
Sadullah Ergin, a member of the ruling party, had rejected Baykal's accusations as unjust.
"Gul has the right to be president like anyone else," Ergin told CNN-Turk television.
Baykal and other party leaders had called Erdogan to nominate a compromise candidate.
Gul already asked for meetings with opposition leaders on Tuesday to seek their support, private CNN-Turk television said. The first round of voting in parliament is due on Aug. 20.
Gul previously withdrew his bid after the secular opposition boycotted the presidential vote in parliament, and the nation's top court declared the process invalid. Huge throngs of pro-secular supporters staged anti-government rallies in major cities at the time.
But Gul, recalling crowds of people who chanted "Gul for President" during his election campaign, has said: "I cannot turn a blind eye to the will of people. The demand of the people is clear."