June 18, 2014

Erdogan gets surprise presidential rival

Erdogan gets surprise presidential rival -

 

Al Monitor - Turkey’s two largest opposition forces, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), have delivered a big political surprise by nominating Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the former secretary-general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC), as their joint candidate for the presidential elections in August. The decision, announced June 16, caught the overwhelming majority off guard, for Ihsanoglu was never mentioned among possible candidates up to that point and is not even a well-known figure to the masses.

For some hard-core secularists and Kemalists in the main opposition CHP, the surprise came with a negative: Ihsanoglu — an internationally renowned scholar of Islamic culture and science history — is a pious man.

Though his ancestors hail from the small, conservative central Anatolian town of Yozgat, Ihsanoglu was born in Cairo in 1943 and pursued an academic career in Egypt, Turkey and Britain. He served 24 years as director-general of the Research Center for Islamic History, Arts and Culture, a body affiliated with what was then the Organization of the Islamic Conference. In 2005, backed by the AKP government, he became the first elected OIC secretary-general, a position he held for eight years. During his tenure, he planned and spearheaded the implementation of reforms aimed at transforming the OIC into an efficient organization compliant with universal norms. Known as an academically independent figure, Ihsanoglu has authored myriad books and articles on science, history and Islamic culture.

Ihsanoglu’s nomination is significant because the vote in August will not be a genuine presidential election. The voters will in fact make a choice between Turkey’s incumbent parliamentarian system and the authoritarian, de facto presidential system that Erdogan dreams of. Ihsanoglu’s victory would mean a victory for the parliamentarian system, and Erdogan’s victory would mean a victory for a de facto presidential regime. Therefore, stopping Erdogan through Ihsanoglu would increase the chances of rehabilitating Turkey’s parliamentarian democracy.

         
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