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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

300,000 Turks Protest Erosion Of Secularism Under Erdogan

ANKARA, Turkey — A sea of flag-waving demonstrators poured into the streets of Turkey's capital to protest a possible presidential run by the pro-Islamic prime minister, whose party has been eroding secular Turks' longtime grip on power.

With a crowd estimated at more than 300,000, the protest Saturday was one of the country's largest in decades. Red Turkish flags hung from balconies and windows and fluttered in the hands of protesters, who chanted: "We don't want an imam as president!"

Police cordoned off the official meeting area near the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the revered founder of modern Turkey and the symbol of its secular identity.

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has brandished his strong religious convictions, speaking out against restrictions on wearing Islamic-style head scarves in government offices and schools and taking steps to bolster religious institutions in the country, which was founded on the principle of secular rule.

The country's pro-secular president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, has been a brake on the pro-Islamic movement but is stepping down May 16. Erdogan's Justice and Development party, which dominates the parliament, is expected to announce its candidate this month to replace Sezer in the appointed presidency. Erdogan is likely to announce on Wednesday whether he will run.

If he runs, the party is expected to select him as president. Another pro-Islamic official could then be selected as prime minister, placing the executive branch entirely under the control of the Islamic-leaning ruling party.