The June 16 selection of Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu as the joint presidential candidate of the Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP), the two leading opposition parties in the Turkish parliament, has triggered heated debate around two issues: whether Ihsanoglu's selection is a signal that the opposition parties have conceded to Turkey’s growing Muslim identity and whether the parties seek to change the country’s south-looking focus on the Middle East.
Ihsanoglu, 70, was born and raised in Cairo. During his academic career, he focused on the development of the Islamic world in all its aspects, and in January 2005, he was elected secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) in Jeddah, despite Saudi Arabia openly lobbying against him. With 57 member countries, the OIC is the world's second largest international organization after the United Nations. Ihsanoglu held his position for nine years, until January of this year.