Turkey’s Secular Parties Endorse Devout Muslim For President


In a surprise turn of events, the two main secular opposition parties in Turkey officially backed a devout Muslim for the Turkish presidency on June 29th. The Nationalist Movement Party and Republican People’s Party together submitted an application nominating Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, an academician and career diplomat, as their candidate for the upcoming presidential elections in Turkey. Ihsanoglu will be standing against Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is also the head of the Islamic Justice and Development Party.

The secular opposition surprised everyone by showing support for Ihsanoglu, who does not have much of a political career, having spent most of his years in academics and diplomacy. However, he is a devout Muslim and is now expected to win votes from Turkey’s traditionally pious electorate that is scheduled to have its election on August 10th. Secular individuals have looked upon the nomination as a conservative and Islamic decision and they seem disappointed because they accused Erdogan of forcing Islamic values in a predominantly Muslim nation.

Ihsanoglu has stressed time and again that he will keep religion out of politics after receiving complete backing from both secular opposition parties. The 70-year-old presidential candidate was born to Turkish parents in Cairo and he stepped down last year as head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation.

Ihsanoglu is perceived as a moderate and reconciliatory figure as opposed to Erdogan who has left Turkish society more polarized than ever in recent times, according to critics. However, Erdogan’s party has won each of the elections since 2002 and he happens to be the most sought after leader in the country. Election polls suggest Erdogan will win by a dramatic margin in the first round, which is to be held on August 10th.

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