Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has been picked as the ruling AK Party’s candidate for the presidency. He is virtually guaranteed to become head of state. Parliament elects the president and the AK party has a big majority in the chamber. Gul was congratulated by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. There had been speculation the premier himself might stand for the job but he had come under intense pressure from the secular establishment not to do so, because of his Islamist past.
Earlier this month, hundreds of thousands of people demonstrated in Ankara to demand that politics and religion remain separate in Turkey. The premier denied any intention to undermine the secular Turkish republic. Both he and Abdullah Gul have wives who wear the Islamic headscarf – a controversial issue in Turkey. Friday sees the first in a series of parliamentary votes to elect the new president.