Turkey’s secular elite and the military leadership fear that Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s expected election to the presidency by parliament today could bring religion back into public life and undermine the secular republic. Gul has established himself as a respected diplomat since his AK Party was first elected in 2002. He pledges to be a leader for all Turks. The AK Party has a majority of 341 seats in the 550-seat parliament.
Journalist Murat Yetkin believes any question marks about the presidency of Abdullah Gul will fade out. “If he keeps these promises and if he keeps the promises especially on the secular democratic nature of the Turkish Republic, I believe that there should be no tension,” he said.
Turkey has been mired in political turmoil since April when the Islamist-rooted AK Party first nominated Gul as their candidate. The Turkish military suspects the AK of harbouring a secret Islamist agenda. The powerful military has ousted four governments since 1960 and is wary of Gul’s Islamist past. It is unlikely it would stand on the sidelines if it saw separation between mosque and state under threat.
Gul has championed Turkey’s bid for European Union membership and has helped push through human rights reforms.