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Court annuls Turkish presidential vote amid debate over secularism

Court annuls Turkish presidential vote amid debate over secularism

Turkey's highest court on Tuesday annulled the first round of parliamentary voting to elect the Islamic-rooted ruling party's candidate for president, following a challenge by the secular opposition.
The government said it would hold another vote in Parliament on Wednesday, raising the prospect of a new battle. But a leading deputy, Sadullah Ergin, later said there would be no vote and that lawmakers would only discuss a new timetable.
There was no immediate explanation for the conflicting statements.
The prospect of the ruling party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, becoming president has prompted fears that a rise in political Islam could erode Turkey's long secular tradition. Hundreds of thousands of pro-secular demonstrators marched in Istanbul Sunday in protest, calling for the government to step down.
The government had hoped to strengthen its authority with Gul's bid to become Turkey's 11th president.
But the opposition Republican People's Party boycotted the first round of voting on Friday and asked for it to be canceled, arguing that the vote was invalid because a quorum of two-thirds of Turkey's 550 legislators was not present.
"We've canceled the first round. Whether the parliament will continue the vote or not, we can't know," Constitutional Court spokesman Hasim Kilic said. "Our court ruled that a quorum of 367 was necessary."
The ruling party, which has 352 seats, would be hard-pressed to gather a quorum if it holds another vote. Lawmakers who boycotted in the first round would likely stick to their positions in a second vote.
It was unclear why the government would want to proceed with another presidential vote, knowing that the process could again lead to failure. The conflicting statements about whether a vote would take place suggested a degree of disarray in senior government circles over how to proceed.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was meeting with his party after the court decision, and said he would make an announcement on the process later in the day.
The government has said it would consider holding early general elections as a way out of the crisis.
"We would like the elections to take place as soon as possible," government spokesman Cemil Cicek said.
Gul, speaking on state-run television after the court ruling, said that "more shadows should not be cast on Turkey."
He said general elections should be held at "the earliest time possible," and that Turkey's political system should change so that the president is elected by popular vote rather than by Parliament.
Erdogan appealed for calm Monday in a national address, saying Turkey must ensure its stability to safeguard its economic recovery.
The Turkish stock market continued its slide amid the political uncertainty, dropping 3.2 percent ahead of the Constitutional Court's decision. The index sank 6.3 percent on Monday.
Turkey, a candidate for European Union membership, has been recovering from a 2001 financial crisis, curbing inflation and pushing ahead with banking reform and other initiatives backed by the International Monetary Fund.
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, an army officer in World War I, founded the secular Turkish republic after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire. He gave the vote to women, restricted Islamic dress and replaced the Arabic script with the Roman alphabet.
But Islam remained potent among many people, and some leaders with a religious background have portrayed themselves as an alternative to the secular establishment.


Updated : 2020-12-01 14:29 GMT+08:00