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Million-plus Turks rally for secularism

[JURIST] Approximately 1.5 million people descended upon Izmir, Turkey Sunday to demonstrate against the Islamist-rooted government of Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website, in Turkish; BBC profile], expressing their commitment to the concept of a secular republic. The protesters also denounced the Turkish military [official website, in Turkish] for its threat to intervene [JURIST report] in presidential elections in order to preserve secularism, calling for a secular yet democratic Turkey. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish; Wikipedia backgrounder] nominated Islamist-leaning Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul [official website; JURIST news archive] for president, but the nomination sparked several large protests by the pro-secular opposition, the Republican People's Party (CHP) [Wikipedia backgrounder]. The CHP boycotted parliament's vote for president, leading the country's constitutional court to void the vote for lack of quorum [JURIST report].

Gul abandoned his bid for the presidency [JURIST report] after a second vote failed to garner enough votes to establish a quorum, but Erdogan's AKP successfully passed a constitutional amendment paving the way for a popular election of the president [JURIST report]. The amendment must still be approved by current Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer [official website] and Gul has said he is open to running in the general election, expected to take place in July. While opponents are afraid that Gul's election would erode the country's secular ideals, Erdogan's party argues that it has no Islamist agenda, and has done much to implement western-style reforms needed for the country to join the European Union. AP has more.

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