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Last Updated: Wednesday, 2 May 2007, 19:26 GMT 20:26 UK
Turkey PM condemns court ruling
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The PM condemned those trying to "divide Turkey into two camps"
Turkey's prime minister says a court ruling annulling the parliamentary election of a new president was like "firing a bullet at democracy".

Recep Tayyip Erdogan's party has asked parliament to approve an early general election to try to resolve the impasse. That election now appears set for 22 July, a month after Mr Erdogan's preferred date of 24 June.

Opposition parties had boycotted the parliamentary vote to prevent the foreign minister becoming president.

The country's constitutional court then backed their call to annul the vote.

Mr Erdogan, who heads the ruling AK party, had wanted elections - originally scheduled for November - to be held in June.

But the electoral council, which is responsible for organising elections, proposed 22 July. That date is expected to be approved by parliament later this week.

The opposition accuses the AK party's candidate for president, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, of having a hidden Islamist agenda and says that if he becomes president it will threaten Turkey's secular tradition.

Mr Gul denies the accusations.

New rounds

The constitutional court on Tuesday ruled that there was no quorum - two-thirds of lawmakers - for last Friday's vote for president in parliament.

After so much uproar, the best thing is to let the people have the last word
Mustafa Unal,
Zaman newspaper

Mr Erdogan said the ruling would make it virtually impossible to elect a new president.

"The way to elect the president in parliament has been blocked... this is a bullet fired at democracy."

Nevertheless, the AK party, which has its roots in political Islam, plans to push ahead with the parliamentary vote.

Senior party member Salih Kapusuz said a round would be held on Sunday and further voting on 9, 12 and 15 May if necessary.

Correspondents say the AK candidate would still be unlikely to gain enough votes.

But a general election would provide a fresh mandate for the government and add legitimacy to its policy on the election of a president, analysts say.

KEY DATES
2 May: Ruling party requests early elections
6 May: Suggested first re-run of parliamentary election for president
16 May: President Ahmet Necdet Sezer's term ends
22 July: Likely date for early general election (currently set for November)

The decision to hold early elections must be debated by parliament and voted into law.

Mr Erdogan has said he wants the president elected by the people not parliament.

His suggestion came amid a number of electoral reform proposals in the wake of the court's ruling.

He also said he wanted the president to serve up to two five-year terms, instead of one seven-year term, and for parliament's term to last four years instead of five.

However, Mr Erdogan also appealed for unity amid deep divisions over the presidency which led to hundreds of thousands rallying in Istanbul on Sunday in support of secularism.

"To interpret Turkey as if it is divided into two camps is murder," Mr Erdogan said.

"Even if our views and lifestyles are different, we are one nation and one Turkey."

He denies opposition fears that an AK president and prime minister would push Turkey towards Islamic rule.

The army has maintained a close interest and has said it will not permit Turkey's secular traditions to be compromised.

However, on Wednesday the European Union warned the military to stay out of the crisis.

EU spokesman Johannes Laitenberger said if Turkey wanted to be a member it would have to respect civilian control.


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Police clash with protesters in Istanbul and Ankara





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