Turkish political crisis deepens

The only presidential candidate, moderate Islamist Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, has pulled out of the Turkish elections, after the second round of votes failed in the parliament due to a boycott of the secularist opposition. The move comes as another blow to Erdogan’s crisis-shaken government.

On 6 May 2007, Foreign Minister Gül said that the continuing divide between the governing AK Party and the secularist opposition had compromised the parliament’s ability to elect a president. He said the only solution was for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to propose an amendment to the Constitution, allowing for the president to be directly elected by the people.

“There is no point in holding a new round,” Gül told reporters. “The parliament is deadlocked. The correct thing now is for the people to elect.” He added: “These useless rounds have damaged the parliament’s honour.”

Later that day, a parliamentary committee approved an amendment to the Constitution allowing for the president to be elected by popular vote instead of a parliamentary ballot. Proposals to reduce the president’s term from seven to five years renewable and to hold general elections every four years instead of five are currently discussed in the parliament.

Gül told the FT on 5 May that popular support for him was at 70%. He said: “That is why we have decided to go to the people.”

The parliament last week approved to hold early general elections on 22 July. Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn had welcomed the move, saying it would “ensure political stability and democratic development in Turkey”.

The sharp divide between the governing moderate Islamist AK Party and the secularist opposition has thrown the country into deep crisis. The opposition approaches the government of endangering the country’s secularist traditions by proposing a presidential candidate, whose wife wears a headscarf.

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