News / Middle East

    Dark Horse Turkish Presidential Candidate Bridges Secular-Religious Divide

    Turkey's main opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (center) flanked by Eskisehir mayor Yilmaz Buyukersen, right, and lawmaker Ruhsar Demirel visits Eskisehir, Aug. 5, 2014.
    Turkey's main opposition candidate in the upcoming presidential election Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (center) flanked by Eskisehir mayor Yilmaz Buyukersen, right, and lawmaker Ruhsar Demirel visits Eskisehir, Aug. 5, 2014.
    Dorian Jones

    Ekmeleddin Mehmet Ihsanoglu is not a natural politician, but rather an academic and diplomat who has headed the Organization of Islamic Cooperation for the past nine years. The country's two biggest opposition parties back him to challenge Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's presidential bid, but he is facing an uphill struggle to convince voters, including some of his own supporters.
     
    "Ekmeleddin, for bread," is his campaign slogan, playing in Turkish on the similarity between the Turkish word for bread - "Ekmek" - and the candidate's first name.

    In launching his campaign, the soft-spoken 70-year-old stressed that his candidacy was about bridging social and religious divisions within Turkish society.

    Ihsanoglu said that, as president, he would not allow either a conservative Muslim woman wearing a headscarf or an anti-government demonstrator who participated in last year's nationwide protests to be insulted or have their rights denied.

    Turkey has been wracked by tensions between the pro-secular and conservative religious sectors of society. A distinguished academic who speaks three foreign languages, Ihsanoglu is presenting himself as a bridge between the communities.

    Born in Cairo to a Turkish Muslim theologian, he is both a practicing Muslim and a professor of theology. Analysts said his message of conciliation was aimed at the front-runner in the presidential race, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

    Analyst Sinan Ülgen of the Carnegie Europe Institute in Brussels said the two men had very different visions of the presidency.

    "They will compete with a different vision of how they want to run the country, with Erdogan making it clear he will want to continue to be part of the decision-making. Whereas Ihsanoglu will stand for a less intrusive presidency much more line with the current presidency. But it's also true that Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is also at a disadvantage, given that he has low name recognition in the country overall," said Ülgen.

    Like fellow candidate Selahattin Demirtas, Ihsanoglu has limited resources compared to the prime minister's well-funded campaign.

    This puts Ihsanoglu at a distinct disadvantage, observers say. With state and private media sympathetic to the prime minister, it is limiting Ihsanoglu's ability to reach out to Erdogan's conservative Sunni voters,. who may be more inclined to vote for him because of his religious background.

    Analyst Ülgen said Ihsanoglu was also meeting resistance from some supporters of the center-left and pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, which is backing his candidacy.

    "Slowly, gradually, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is getting to be known. So some of the reservations of the more hard-core secularists and Kemalists within the CHP camp ... could disappear. But nonetheless, it will really depend on the turnout rate. If the turnout rate falls below 80-85 percent, which will essentially mean that at least some of the CHP backers did not go out and vote, then Erdogan stands a chance of winning in the first round," he said.

    Some Erdogan aides are already predicting he will easily secure the 50 percent plus one vote needed to win in the first round of voting on August 10.  Despite such predictions, Erdogan has intensified his attacks on Ihsanoglu. Observers say the intensification of the prime minister's rhetoric suggest he sees Ihsanoglu as a real threat.

    You May Like

    Turkey, US Splits Deepen Over Support for Kurdish Militants

    Ankara summons American ambassador to protest remarks by State Department spokesman who said Washington does not consider Syria's Kurdish Democracy Union Party (PYD) a terrorist organization

    Obama Seeking $19 Billion for National Cybersecurity

    Move, touted as attempt to build broad, cohesive federal response to cyberthreats, calls for increase in cybersecurity spending across all government agencies

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire, who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the wars in Iraq, Syria and Yemen

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.