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Saturday, 6 May, 2000, 04:04 GMT 05:04 UK
Profile: Ahmet Necdet Sezer
President Sezer
President Sezer: Wants his own powers curbed
By regional analyst Pam O'Toole

Turkey's new president, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, has no experience in foreign affairs and is expected to take a much lower profile on the international stage than his flamboyant and charismatic predecessor, Suleyman Demirel.

It is hoped that his election may help to maintain stability within Turkey as it moves towards membership of the EU

His name was only put forward after Turkey's political parties failed to reach consensus on a candidate from within parliament.

But the veteran civil servant and head of the constitutional court has received the backing of leaders from both the government coalition and the opposition, and it is hoped that his election may help to maintain stability within Turkey as it moves towards membership of the European Union.

Respect for the law

So what kind of President is he likely to make? Mr Sezer has kept out of the media spotlight since he was nominated and little is known about his immediate plans.

Bluent Ecevit
The election of the new president in good news for Prime Minister Ecevit
He is known as a man of personal integrity with a deep respect for the rule of law. Given his lack of experience in political life he is unlikely to use the presidency's few executive powers to the same extent as Mr Demirel, who used his political skills to help out in times of crisis.

Similarly, his lack of experience in foreign affairs suggests that he's unlikely to emulate Mr Demirel's hectic travel schedule, representing Turkish interests in the region and further afield.

Curbing the president

Mr Sezer may well decide to play more of a purely ceremonial role than his predecessors.

He has suggested that the powers of the president should be curbed.

He said that presidential powers, which allow the incumbent to veto draft laws or submit them to referendums, or even to call for elections under certain circumstances, exceeded the boundaries of parliamentary democracy.

Mr Sezer is also regarded as a secularist, a fact which should make him acceptable to Turkey's powerful military

If Mr Sezer is known for anything, it is his support for constitutional reform in Turkey. He caused a stir last year when he made a speech criticising Turkey's constitution, introduced after a military coup in 1980, as restricting democratic rights and freedoms.

His support for greater freedom of expression is likely to go down well in Europe, which in the past has strongly criticised Turkey for imprisoning Kurdish and pro-Islamic writers or politicians for making speeches or writing articles.

Safe hands

The experienced judge may also be regarded, both internally and externally, as a safe pair of hands to supervise Turkey's attempts to reform and harmonise its laws prior to entering into negotiations for EU membership.

Mr Sezer is also regarded as a secularist, a fact which should make him acceptable to Turkey's powerful military.

His election is extremely good news for the Prime Minister, Bulent Ecevit.

Mr Ecevit's position at the head of the most popular and stable government in Turkey in years was jeopardised by the recent row over who should succeed Suleyman Demirel.

The coalition now appears secure and Mr Ecevit will be able to turn his attention to pushing through vital economic reforms demanded by the IMF, which were put on the backburner during the recent political crisis.

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