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Ihsanoglu: the devout intellectual hoping to de-throne Turkey leader

Turkey's Presidential candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu (C) speaks to women at the Haci Bayram mosque after the Friday prayer in Ankara on June 27, 2014The softly spoken, bespectacled intellectual hoping to defeat Turkey’s powerful premier in the country’s first direct presidential election faces a steep uphill struggle. Egypt-born Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu is a former head of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, the global grouping of Muslim nations, and a scholar who makes no secret of his devotion to Islam. The selection of an overtly pious Muslim may seem a surprising move for the secular opposition, but it reflects the way in which Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan — who continues to dominate Turkish politics after 11 years in power — has made it impossible to ignore the religiously conservative majority. The opposition hopes Ihsanoglu’s calm and professorial demeanour will offer a welcome contrast to Erdogan’s volatile outbursts and polarising style, that have become increasingly evident over the past year as he responds to mass anti-government protests and a torrent of corruption allegations against his inner circle.

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