Chanting secularist slogans and waving Turkish flags, more than 300,000 from throughout Turkey rallied April 15 to discourage Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from running for the presidency. The protesters marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, founder of the modern Turkish state.
Slogans—including "Turkey is secular, it will remain secular"; "The presidency's roads are closed to Sharia"; and "An imam cannot become a president"—reflecting concerns that Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are not truly committed to the secular system Ataturk designed. The rally main organizer was the Association of Ataturk Thought.
The crowd broke into wild applause at the changing of the site's honor guard. "The nation is proud of you," they shouted to the soldiers. Turkey's army has carried out three coups—in 1960, 1971 and 1980—and in 1997 forced from power Turkey's first Islamist-led government, to which many AKP members belonged.
Erdogan has yet to say whether he will run for the presidency when the AKP-dominated parliament elects a successor to the staunchly secularist Ahmet Necdet Sezer next month. (Gulf Daily News, Bahrain, April 15)
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