Thousands of secular, nationalist Turks marched in the capital Saturday, vowing to defend the secular regime against Islamization and urging the government not to make too many concessions in order to gain European Union membership.
Some 12,000 people waved Turkish flags as they marched to the mausoleum of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, in a show of loyalty to secularism.
"Turkey is secular and it will remain secular," marchers chanted.
Turkey's staunchly secular President Ahmet Necdet Sezer will retire in May, and the parliament will choose the new president.
Although largely ceremonial, the presidency has become a symbol for secularism under Sezer.