Crowds numbering in the hundreds of thousands gathered Sunday for a pro-secularism rally in Istanbul, calling for a secularist democracy in Turkey amid concerns that presidential candidate Abdullah Gul, whose Justice and Development Party has Islamist ties, will let his beliefs influence his actions if he wins the election.
Mr Gul has steered Turkey’s European Union accession talks as foreign minister and is seen as less confrontational than Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the leader of his Islamist-rooted Justice and Development (AK) party.
“The president must be loyal to secular principles. If I am elected, I will act accordingly,” he said after his nomination for the presidency.
But some analysts say he is closer to his religious roots, and his wife would be the first First Lady to wear a headscarf, a deeply divisive statement in Turkey.