Turkey's ruling AK Party proposed a non-Islamist for the post of parliamentary speaker, a move that will go down well with the country's powerful secular elite, but it has yet to say who it will choose be its choice for president.
The naming of Koksal Toptan, a moderate conservative, as the Islamist-rooted AK Party's candidate for speaker, a post that ranks second only to that of president in Turkey, will please secularists and suggests the party is seeking compromise, analysts said.
Toptan does not have an Islamic background and his wife does not wear a headscarf. He has served in several secular, centre-right governments, including as education minister.
Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party has a big parliamentary majority, virtually guaranteeing Toptan's election. A first round of voting is scheduled for Thursday.
But the AKP is torn over re-nominating Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for president, fearing fresh tensions with secularist forces and the military, party sources and press reports said Wednesday.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had named Gul as presidential candidate in April -- a move that sparked a severe political crisis and prompted him to call snap legislative elections last month.
Erdogan is reluctant about re-nominating Gul, even though his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won a landslide victory in the polls and can be confident of securing the election of any candidate it chooses when parliament votes on a new head of state later this month, the sources said.
After his election July 22 victory, Erdogan promised to embrace those who did not vote for the AKP, the offshoot of a now-banned Islamist movement which hardline secularists suspect of seeking to erode the separation of state and religion.
Re-nominating Gul, a former Islamist who has signaled his willingness to run again, "would contradict Erdogan's post-election message" of reconciliation, an AKP official said on the condition of anonymity.
Another party member said: "The prime minister will not tell Gul directly to pull out. But the prevailing opinion is that it will be better if he withdraws on his own will."
When Gul stood in April and May, both votes were boycotted by the opposition on the grounds that Gul's past should exclude him from becoming secular Turkey's head of state.
The crisis climaxed when the army said it was ready to defend the secular system and millions took to the streets to protest against the prospect of an AKP president.
The AKP denies charges that it has a secret Islamist agenda. It has disowned its roots, pledged commitment to the secular system and carried out reforms that stabilized the economy and ensured the start of Turkey's EU membership talks.
Turkey's largest newspaper Hurriyet issued an emotional appeal to Gul to give up his presidential ambitions to pave the way for reconciliation.
"Mr. Gul, who fully deserves this post, should reject it by his own will... The country expects such a gesture from him," editor-in-chief Ertugrul Ozkok wrote.
Such a move "would restore the confidence between us and eradicate at a stroke the deep suspicions over (the AKP's) secret ambitions," he said.