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Monday, 3 February, 2003, 12:41 GMT
Erdogan set for parliament bid
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan was banned from standing in November
The leader of Turkey's governing party is to stand in a by-election in March, in a first step towards becoming prime minister.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan will contest the seat in the south-eastern Siirt province on 9 March, a senior party official announced.

Our party chairman will be a parliamentary candidate for Siirt and will enter parliament on 10 March, God willing

Mehmet Ali Sahin
Deputy Prime Minister
His Justice and Development (AK) Party swept to power in November, but Mr Erdogan himself was banned from standing because of a previous criminal conviction.

His party has since changed the constitution, clearing the way for him to re-enter parliamentary politics.

Mr Erdogan's complex legal battles may, however, continue.

Irregularities

The Turkish constitutional court recently ruled that he was not legally party chairman - although he was subsequently re-elected - and it is thought that there could be further legal challenges to him standing in Siirt.

The by-election has arisen because the November election result was annulled over procedural irregularities.

Turkish Prime Minister Abdullah Gul
Prime Minister Abdullah Gul would make way for Mr Erdogan
The current Turkish PM, Abdullah Gul, is expected to stand down if Mr Erdogan wins the election.

Under the Turkish political system only members of parliament can hold the post of prime minister.

The announcement of Mr Erdogan's candidacy came from Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Ali Sahin.

"Our party chairman will be a parliamentary candidate for Siirt and will enter parliament on 10 March, God willing," he was quoted as saying by the state-run Anatolian news agency.

Map showing Siirt
Mr Erdogan's conviction was for Islamist sedition. He had publicly read an Islamist poem at a political rally in 1997 - coincidentally also in Siirt province.

His AK party has Islamist roots, and its predecessors were banned for "anti-secular activities".

Mr Erdogan insists that the new party is committed to secularism.

Turkish markets have been waiting anxiously to see the outcome of his legal battle to become PM.

The country's powerful generals are also thought to be closely watching the party's policies.

Turkey's election

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31 Dec 02 | Europe
26 Dec 02 | Europe
08 Nov 02 | Europe
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