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Turkey's highest court halts parliamentary vote on president

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkey's highest court halted a parliamentary vote Tuesday that looked certain to lead to a president rooted in political Islam, a victory for secularists who fear the country is moving toward Islamic rule that would undermine their Western way of life.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan responded by calling for a constitutional amendment to allow the president to be elected by popular vote, rather than by the parliament. And he said new parliamentary elections could be held as early as June 24, instead of in November as scheduled.

The goal would be to elect a government with a fresh mandate and resolve a crisis that has seen the stock market plummet and the pro-secular military threaten to intervene.

"God willing, Turkey will go back to its track," Erdogan told reporters late Tuesday, referring to the economic and political stability that Turkey had enjoyed in recent years.

Earlier, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, the ruling Islamist party's presidential candidate, said he would not withdraw his candidacy despite Tuesday's setback from the Constitutional Court, a strongly secular body, and urged parliamentary elections "as soon as possible."

"What we need to cast off and get rid of these shadows is early elections," Gul said.

Erdogan said a new presidential vote would proceed in Parliament on Thursday.

"We will apply to Parliament starting tomorrow morning for early elections," he said.

"The earliest possible date for elections is June 24 or July 1."


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