Turkish presidential candidate Abdullah Gul threw in the towel yesterday after
secularist legislators boycotted the election for the second time in nine days in
reaction to Gul's pro-Islamist record. The partisan standoff portends a bitter clash
between secularists who generally populate Turkey's urban areas and the ruling AK party in crucial parliamentary elections in July.
AK's official stance supports the separation of religion and politics, but that did not assuage tens of thousands of secular Turks who protested recently in Istanbul and Ankara. The secular establishment, which includes the judiciary and the military, is very much on edge. "The problem wasn't solved," said a Turkish sociologist. "Both sides are more suspicious now."