Election in Turkey: Erdogan is campaigning by waving a Koran at the crowd

This photo released by the Turkish Presidential Press office shows President Recep Tayyip Erdogan holding a Koran during a political rally in the southeastern city of Batman on May 2, 2015 (AFP Photo/Kayhan Ozer)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has controversially turned religion into a campaign issue in the officially secular country’s upcoming polls, which promise to be the biggest election challenge yet for the ruling party.

In an unprecedented gesture by a Turkish politician in recent times, Erdogan waved a copy of the Muslim holy book the Koran translated into Kurdish during a rally this week in the Kurdish-majority southeast.

“Turkey has never seen a president who leads an election campaign with a copy of the Koran in his hand,” Professor Ilter Turan of Istanbul’s Bilgi University, told AFP.

The ruling Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) — co-founded by Erdogan and in power since 2002 — is widely expected to win the June 7 legislative polls but faces an uphill struggle to win the two-thirds majority it needs to change the constitution…

…The [opposition] HDP lodged an unsuccessful complaint with the election authority this week, accusing Erdogan of violating the president’s impartiality and using the Koran as a “propoganda tool”.

Erdogan has denied the claims saying: “I am neutral vis-a-vis all parties but naturally one party is closer to my heart”…

Turkey’s current constitution requires that president be non-partisan, which Erdogan is happily ignoring.

Erdogan wants to change the constitution and give the office of the president real power but this requires more than simply winning the largest number of votes.