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IN THE NEWS - Turkey Gets a New President; Pakistan Waits and Wonders How Its Political Crisis Will End

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This is IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English.

Abdullah Gul was sworn in this week as the eleventh president of Turkey. The fifty-six-year-old economist formerly served as foreign minister.

Abdullah Gul after his election
Abdullah Gul after his election

He easily won the election in parliament on Tuesday. But his victory came after four months of dispute over the idea of a president with an Islamic past. Mister Gul began his political life as part of an Islamist party that is now banned.

A political crisis followed his nomination earlier this year by the ruling Justice and Development Party, known as the AK party. Thousands of people went into the streets to protest his candidacy. The crisis resulted in early parliamentary elections in July which the AKP won.

The election of Mister Gul is widely seen as a vote of support for the economic gains that Turkey has made in recent years. The AK party was first elected in two thousand two.

But military leaders boycotted Mister Gul's swearing-in ceremony. The army considers itself the guardian of the separation of government and religion. The army has ousted four governments since nineteen sixty. Not since nineteen eighty, however, has this happened with force.

Turkey has had a constitutional separation of religion and government for more than eighty years. Mister Gul promises to honor it.

The new president is an observant Muslim. Those who want to keep religion out of government are uneasy about the idea that his wife, Hayrunisa, wears an Islamic headscarf. So do more than half of all Turkish women. But the hijab has been banned in public offices and schools for almost thirty years.

What concerns the secularists most, however, is that Mister Gul will be able to appoint officials like constitutional court judges and the head of the military. He will also have the power to veto legislation.

As Turks were getting a new president this week, Pakistanis were considering the future of their country's leadership.

Nawaz Sharif at a news conference Thursday in London
Nawaz Sharif at a news conference Thursday in London

On Thursday, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced that he will return to Pakistan on September tenth. The Pakistani Supreme Court ruled last week that he can return from exile. He says he will fight the re-election plans of President Pervez Musharraf.

General Musharraf overthrew him eight years ago and sent him into exile in Saudi Arabia. Now Mister Sharif is demanding that the general step down as both president and army chief.

President Musharraf is expected to seek another five-year term in a vote in parliament in the coming weeks. But his public support has fallen.

The president has reportedly been seeking an alliance with Benazir Bhutto, another former prime minister. She lives in exile by choice but still heads Pakistan's largest opposition party. She said the president must leave the army before she would support his re-election.

In exchange, she wants the government to drop corruption charges against her and her family and let her serve a third term as prime minister.

And that's IN THE NEWS in VOA Special English, written by Brianna Blake. You can download transcripts and MP3 files of our reports at www.unsv.com. I'm Steve Ember.

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