Feature

Islamists vs. secularists

The week's news at a glance.

Istanbul

Turkey’s highest court temporarily blocked the election of an Islamist candidate for president this week, after nearly 1 million people demonstrated in Istanbul for separation of mosque and state. The candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, is from Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Islamist party, which in the past has advocated banning alcohol and allowing public officials to wear head scarves. Parliament, which picks the president, is dominated by that party. But Turkey’s other prominent institutions, the courts and the military, are staunchly secular and see themselves as the protectors of Kemal Ataturk’s vision of a Western-oriented state. The court ruled that Gul’s election was void because not enough lawmakers were present to vote. Secular parties had boycotted the vote. In an attempt to calm their fears, Erdogan has called for early parliamentary elections, to be held in June. That will give secularists a chance to try to vote out the Islamist party.

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