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The BBC's Chris Morris
"For the first time a president who is neither a general nor a career politician"
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Tuesday, 16 May, 2000, 15:28 GMT 16:28 UK
Turkey's new president takes office
President Sezer of Turkey
By Chris Morris in Ankara

The new President of Turkey, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, has been sworn into office.

He replaces Suleyman Demirel and will serve a single seven-year term.

Mr Sezer, who was formerly the chief justice of the constitutional court, is the first president in modern Turkish history who is neither an active politician nor a military commander.

His position is largely ceremonial but as president, he will have the chance to help set the tone of political debate and influence decisions behind the scenes.

Protecting secular institutions

In a speech after the brief swearing-in ceremony, Mr Sezer vowed to protect Turkey's secular system at all costs, and he said Turks deserved to live in a better democracy.

Unless we abandon elements which resemble a police state, we can't meet the demands of being a modern society

President Sezer
"We shouldn't waste any more time in making sure that democracy is properly rooted in our political life and the supremacy of the law becomes an integral part of our state's structure.

"Unless we abandon elements which resemble a police state, we can't meet the demands of being a modern society," he added.

Mr Sezer promised to fight against corruption and said no-one should consider themselves above the law.

He also said Turkey must accelerate its efforts to integrate with the European Union. Many people have high hopes that Mr Sezer will push for the type of reforms which could eventually allow that to happen.

He is a strong advocate of the supremacy of the law, but has argued that much of Turkey's current legislation needs to be updated.

In the past, he has been particularly critical of the constitution, which was introduced after a military coup in 1980.

Many observers have interpreted his election as a symbol of a general desire for greater democratic rights and freedom of expression.

Foreign affairs

The new president will also have to play a role in foreign affairs, a field in which he has no experience.

Mr Sezer, a man who speaks no foreign languages and who has been in the legal profession all his life, will now be representing Turkey on the world stage.

It could be a steep learning curve, but opinion polls suggest that a large majority of Turks are happy to see a new face in the presidential palace.

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See also:

06 May 00 | Europe
Profile: Ahmet Necdet Sezer
06 May 00 | Europe
Judge elected Turkish president
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