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Controversial Candidate Again Seeks Turkey's Presidency

Turkey's Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul said Tuesday he will run again for his country's presidency. His previous bid in April caused a political crisis that forced Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to call new elections. As Dorian Jones reports for VOA from Istanbul, Gul is a devout Muslim and his candidacy is expected to raise opposition again from Turkey's secular opposition parties.

In a news conference to confirm his candidacy, Gul said he was answering the call of the people. He said, if elected, he will protect the secular constitution separating state and religion.

He said, "My candidacy is based on the masses of people, in the city and town square which have voiced their support for me." He added that he thought deeply about this decision, "but could not deny the people's wishes."

During his first bid for the presidency in April, opponents accused him of wanting to undermine the secular state, pointing to his leading role in previous Islamic parties. His candidacy caused a political crisis and resulted in last month's snap elections. His Justice and Development party won the election.

At his news conference, Gul stressed he is committed to to the founding principles of the republic.

"My priority is to follow the Turkish constitution and its principles of secularism and the rule of law. My guide will always be upholding the constitution," he said.

Gul spent much of Tuesday meeting with opposition party leaders in attempt to build support.

Along with concerns about his Islamic political past, his wife is also an issue. She wears a religious headscarf, which is banned in many state buildings. Gul refused to answer questions about the issue, saying it will be addressed later.

Political columnist Nuray Mert says Gul's candidacy could reopen divisions within Turkish society.

"Everybody is looking forward for a second term which is stable economically and also politically. And for political stability there must a compromise and consensus on the issue of presidency," said Mert.

It is widely reported that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not enthusiastic about Gul's candidacy. During the election campaign he had promised to consult with all the political leaders and seek a consensus over who will be president. But political analysts say the prime minister could not resist pressure from his grassroots supporters and deputies backing Gul's candidacy.

Since last month's election, the prime minister had been trying to repair divisions within Turkish society. Last week he chose a consensus candidate for the speaker of parliament.