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Thousands of Turks rally in support of secularism

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Thousands of Turks rally in support of secularism


In Turkey, tens of thousands of people have been protesting in Istanbul in support of the country’s secular system. It comes amid a growing political crisis over the future of the presidency. Secularists believe the ruling Islamist-rooted AK Party’s candidate, Abdullah Gul, will tamper with the strict separation of state and religion, if he wins, but the Foreign Minister denies that.

Waving Turkish flags and anti-government placards, the demonstrators made it clear they want the AK party to abandon its plan to make Gul president. The minister did not get enough votes in the first round of the election in parliament on Friday. A second round is set for Wednesday.

The dispute has also put the AK party at odds with the military, which sees itself as the guardian of the secular state and has ousted four governments in the past 50 years. But the main opposition groups, backed by the EU, have warned the military not to meddle in politics. Two weeks ago a similar rally in the capital Ankara attracted an estimated half a million people on to the streets.

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