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Turkish foreign minister wins presidency in parliamentary vote

Turkish foreign minister wins presidency in parliamentary vote

A devout Muslim with a background in political Islam won the Turkish presidency on Tuesday, in a major triumph for the Islamic-rooted government after months of confrontation with the secular establishment.
Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul received a majority of 339 votes in a parliamentary ballot, Parliament Speaker Koksal Toptan said. Ruling party legislators broke into applause.
"Abdullah Gul was elected Turkey's 11th president, with 339 votes," Toptan said. "I congratulate him."
The vote took place a day after the military, which has ousted four governments since 1960, issued a stern warning about the threat to secularism. Gul's initial bid for president earlier this year was blocked over fears that he planned to dilute secular traditions.
"Our nation has been watching the behavior of those separatists who can't embrace Turkey's unitary nature, and centers of evil that systematically try to corrode the secular nature of the Turkish Republic," Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, chief of the military, said in a note on the military's Web site Monday.
Gul, 56, has promised to uphold secularism. But Turkey's president has the power to veto legislation, and Gul has failed to allay secularist fears that he would sign into law any legislation passed by the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan _ a close ally _ without concern for the separation of religion and politics.
Also, his wife wears an Islamic-style head scarf _ which is banned in government offices and schools. Islamic attire has been restricted in Turkey since the country's first president, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, ushered in secularism and Western-style reforms in the 1930s.
Two other candidates, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu of a nationalist party, and Tayfun Icli of a small center-left party, got 70 and 13 votes, respectively.
"I hope (Gul's presidency) is beneficial to the country, the people and the republic," Erdogan said. "God willing, together, shoulder to shoulder, we will carry Turkey forward."
Gul failed to win the presidency in two rounds of voting last week because the ruling Justice and Development party lacked the two-thirds majority in parliament needed for him to secure the post. But the party _ which holds 341 of the 550 seats _ had a far easier hurdle on Tuesday, when only a simple majority was required.
Gul was scheduled to be sworn in as president in parliament later Tuesday. He was to take over from outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer soon after in a low-key ceremony closed to reporters.
Gul's first attempt to attain the presidency earlier this year was thwarted by a boycott of the vote in the legislature by lawmakers opposed to his candidacy. That prompted Erdogan to call early general elections, which his party dominated.
One of Gul's first tasks as president will be to approve Erdogan's new Cabinet, which the prime minister will present to him on Wednesday. Erdogan had presented his list earlier this month to Sezer, who said the new president should approve it.
Minutes after Gul was elected, thousands in his hometown of Kayseri, in Turkey's conservative heartland, gathered in a main square, cheering, dancing and waving Turkish flags. A canon fired 41 rounds in celebration, NTV television showed.
Huge posters of Gul hanged from the walls of a historic castle next to those of Ataturk.
Secularist Turks staged mass rallies and the military threatened to intervene when Erdogan nominated Gul for president in the spring.
Gul insisted that he be re-nominated for president earlier this month, arguing that his party's victory in the early general elections gave him a strong mandate to run. He rejected calls from secularist parties to step aside in favor of a non-Islamist, compromise candidate.
A person who has defied the (secular) republic, who has said he finds it to be wrong, is about to move to the top of the state. This is a contradiction," said Deniz Baykal, leader of the secular opposition. His party boycotted the vote on Tuesday and has said it would not take part in some state occasions, including presidential ceremonies.
As foreign minister, Gul _ who speaks English and Arabic _ has cultivated an image as a moderate politician, acting as an impassioned voice for reforms to promote Turkey's bid to join the European Union.
In a recent meeting with foreign journalists, Gul said he would make use of his experience as foreign minister to boost Turkey's EU bid and make the Turkish presidency more active on the international scene.
"Turkey will be more active; Turkey will be contributing more to world issues," he said.


Updated : 2021-07-29 01:47 GMT+08:00