It’s hard to overestimate the looming potential of Turkey as it sits astride the boundaries of Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, has a long and proud history of dominating its neighbors, is trying to gain entry into the European Union, is engaged in a guerrilla war with Kurdish separatists in Southern Turkey and Northern Iraq, and is the one secular democracy with a majority Muslim population.
Its role in providing cheap labor to other nations has been an important economic element in Europe but also a major source of irritation. Turkey’s often times heavy handed approach to religious elements has been much criticized but largely effective in maintaining its secular character, largely through military enforcement and intervention.
Which is why the election of a Muslim with an Islamic political background is so huge. Gul gives lip service to the importance of the secular nature of the Turkish government and maintains the highest priority to admission into the European Union (partly, I think, because religious protections in the E.U. are much stronger than currently practiced domestically in Turkey).
But the military does not seem to trust him or Prime Minister Erdogan. Keep an eye out here.