April 24, 2007 / 3:18 PM / 13 years ago

Turk opposition says won't join presidential vote

ANKARA (Reuters) - Turkey’s main opposition party said on Tuesday it would boycott parliamentary voting for the next president, in the first sign of opposition to Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul’s nomination by the Islamist-rooted ruling party.

Earlier, the ruling AK Party nominated Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist whose wife wears the Muslim headscarf, as its candidate for president in a May election.

The AK Party has a big majority in parliament, which will hold its first round of voting on the new president on Friday.

“The process of determining a candidate (for the ruling party) was not conducted democratically, so there is no chance of our supporting (Gul),” Mustafa Ozyurek, a senior lawmaker of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), told a news conference.

The fiercely secularist CHP is angry that Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan refused to consult it over the presidency issue.

Secularists fear the AK Party wants to undermine Turkey’s strict separation of state and religion. Erdogan and Gul deny any Islamist agenda and say they will uphold secularism.

Ozyurek, who spoke after Gul held talks with CHP leader Deniz Baykal, reiterated an earlier threat to appeal to the Constitutional Court if Gul is elected president with fewer than 367 deputies, or two thirds, present in the chamber at the time.

The prospect of a protracted legal challenge to Gul’s election could scare off investors and harm financial markets. They had closed for the day when Ozyurek made his comments.

The AK Party, which has 354 seats in the 550-seat assembly, says just 184 members are needed in the chamber at the time of voting. But Erdogan and Gul are seeking the support of smaller parties to help head off any legal challenge from the CHP.

The first round of voting for a new president has been set for Friday, when a successful candidate needs at least 367 votes to win outright. Failing that, a second round of voting will be held on May 2 where the same number of votes will be required.

Gul will most likely be elected in a third round of voting set for May 9, when he needs only 276 votes, or a simple majority.

Gul is the only candidate in the election so far. The new president will be sworn in on May 16, when the seven-year term of incumbent Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a staunch secularist, ends.

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