Source AP ©

Turkey's Prime Minister Erdogan picks former minister without Islamic past in new parliament

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed a former minister without an Islamic past to serve in the new parliament.

Erdogan announced the name of Koksal Toptan, who served as education minister and culture minister in previous governments, as his party's candidate after consultations with members of his own party and opposition parties, as well.

Toptan will likely be elected parliament speaker on Thursday. He said he hoped to be elected in the first round of voting.

"In case of my election, I will help the parliament work to develop democracy and rights and freedoms of individuals," Toptan told reporters.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, which has roots in Turkey's Islamic movement, won a majority in the July 22 elections. Toptan, who joined Erdogan's party after defecting from a secular, conservative party, was a front-runner for the job.

The opposition Nationalist Action Party nominated Tunca Toskay, a former state minister, as its candidate.

Erdogan's consultations with opposition leaders on Wednesday seemed to show that the prime minister was searching for a candidate acceptable to different parties and raised the prospect that he may do the same when nominating his party's candidate for president.

It was Erdogan's decision to nominate his ally, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, for president that sparked a backlash from the opposition, which in turn forced Gul to abandon his bid and triggered the early elections. The secular opposition charged that Gul, who has an Islamist past, would help erode the predominantly Muslim nation's secular traditions.

In his victory speech on July 22, Erdogan promised an all-embracing government, a sign that he would take into account secular sensitivities.

His party, however, is divided. Some legislators have said its resounding electoral victory allows it to nominate Gul again while others have said the party should opt for a candidate who would also be acceptable to the secular opposition.

Newspapers have reported that Gul is intent on standing for president again.

Erdogan, was given the task of forming a new government on Aug. 6 and has some 45 days in which to pick the members of his new Cabinet.