Turkey's AK Party picks Gul to contest presidency

Turkey's ruling AK Party decided on Monday to re-submit Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an ex-Islamist, as its candidate for president, party sources said.

Turkey's AK Party picks Gul to contest presidency
Turkey's ruling AK Party decided on Monday to re-submit Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, an ex-Islamist, as its candidate for president, party sources said.

AK Party sources told Reuters Gul would visit opposition party leaders on Tuesday to try to garner support for his bid. He is then likely to hold a news conference in parliament to formally announce his candidacy, they said.

The secularists, including powerful army generals, derailed an earlier attempt to have parliament elect Gul as president, a move that triggered early parliamentary elections which the AK Party won decisively last month.

A first round of voting in the presidential election will be held next Monday.

Secularists oppose Gul because of his Islamist past and the fact his wife wears the Muslim headscarf. Gul, who denies any Islamist agenda, has already signalled he wants to run again.

The cabinet debated the presidential election on Monday and talks continued late into the evening at the AK Party's executive board.

Earlier, Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin said ordinary Turks and AK Party officials favoured Gul's candidacy.

Gul is a gently spoken diplomat and an architect of Turkey's European Union membership bid, but the secular establishment fears he would erode the separation of state and religion if elected, a claim he strongly rejects.

IDEOLOGY

The leader of the secularist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) reiterated his objections to Gul's candidacy, based on his role in the cabinet ousted by the army in 1997 and what he might mean for Turkey.

"Gul is a conscious member of an ideological circle," Deniz Baykal told CNN Turk television. "Turkey would become a country in which the political balances were changing very fast, in which the Middle East identity would become more pronounced."

Erdogan, seeking to project a more liberal, modern image for his pro-business party, wants to put the presidential race behind him and press ahead with political and economic reforms.

Contrary to expectations, Sahin said Erdogan would probably present a new cabinet list for approval on Thursday to outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a secularist critic of the AK Party, instead of waiting for a new head of state to be chosen.

Sezer has often vetoed AK Party laws and appointments in the past. His mandate expired in May but he has remained as interim president after parliament's failure to elect his successor.

To help soften secularist anger, newspapers have speculated that the AK Party might field several candidates in the presidential election. Erdogan himself spoke last week of "our candidates", suggesting there would be more than one.

But party officials on Monday evening made no mention of other candidates running alongside Gul.

Reuters



Last Mod: 14 Ağustos 2007, 09:57
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