Turkish PM moves to end crisis


Summary

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will push for early legislative elections and political reforms after the country's top court annulled a parliamentary vote for a new president that sparked a political crisis.

"We will apply to parliament at once, tomorrow morning, to bring general elections forward," Mr Erdogan told a news conference after a meeting of his Justice and Development Party's (AKP) leadership.

"For us, the election date could be June 24 or July 1 because those are the earliest possible dates to hold elections," he added.

Legislative elections are currently set for November 4.

Presidential vote dismissed

His call came hours after the Constitutional Court annulled a first-round vote in parliament last Friday to elect a new president, saying there should have been a quorum of 367 lawmakers.

Parliamentary minutes show there were only 361 lawmakers present for the vote and the sole candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist, narrowly missed being elected falling just 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority of 367 to be elected.

The Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the vote by the main, secular opposition party, which opposed Mr Gul's candidacy because of his background in radical Islam and because his wife wears the headscarf seen as a symbol, in Turkey, of religion in politics.

The AKP has 351 seats and is unlikely to gather the required quorum of 367 in a repeated vote if the opposition boycotts the poll like it did first time.

Prime Minister Erdogan said his party would immediately push for a constitutional amendment to allow for a two-round presidential election by popular vote if parliament fails to elect a new head of state in the renewed first round of voting.

"We will wait and see the result of the first round. We believe going to the nation is the best way on this issue as well," Erdogan said.

Mr Celik said if parliament enacts the amendment in time, Turkey would hold legislative and presidential elections at the same time.

"If it does not, then people will vote in early general elections and a referendum (on a presidency by popular suffrage) at the same time," he said.

Sweeping reforms

Mr Erdogan also proposed modifying the presidency to run for a once-renewable, five-year mandate instead of the current single, seven-year mandate.

He suggested holding legislative elections every four years instead of the current five, and asked for a speedy constitutional amendment to set the age for parliamentary eligibility at 25 in the coming elections.

Analysts say early elections would help the government stave off the risk of a deeper crisis with the army, which threatened after Friday's annulled vote to step in to protect Turkey's secular order.

It would also help the ruling party save face against its own electorate by not backing down on Mr Gul's candidacy.

The opposition and an overwhelming portion of the media, non-governmental organisations and pressure groups have been clamouring for early general elections as the only way out of the crisis.

The decision to hold early elections is likely to bring short-term relief to financial markets that slipped badly over the past two days as a result of the political tumult.

Financial markets believe a strong government will keep Turkey on track to carry out reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, which Ankara is seeking to join.


Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan will push for early legislative elections and political reforms after the country's top court annulled a parliamentary vote for a new president that sparked a political crisis.

"We will apply to parliament at once, tomorrow morning, to bring general elections forward," Mr Erdogan told a news conference after a meeting of his Justice and Development Party's (AKP) leadership.

"For us, the election date could be June 24 or July 1 because those are the earliest possible dates to hold elections," he added.

Legislative elections are currently set for November 4.

Presidential vote dismissed

His call came hours after the Constitutional Court annulled a first-round vote in parliament last Friday to elect a new president, saying there should have been a quorum of 367 lawmakers.

Parliamentary minutes show there were only 361 lawmakers present for the vote and the sole candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a former Islamist, narrowly missed being elected falling just 10 votes short of the two-thirds majority of 367 to be elected.

The Constitutional Court was asked to rule on the vote by the main, secular opposition party, which opposed Mr Gul's candidacy because of his background in radical Islam and because his wife wears the headscarf seen as a symbol, in Turkey, of religion in politics.

The AKP has 351 seats and is unlikely to gather the required quorum of 367 in a repeated vote if the opposition boycotts the poll like it did first time.

Prime Minister Erdogan said his party would immediately push for a constitutional amendment to allow for a two-round presidential election by popular vote if parliament fails to elect a new head of state in the renewed first round of voting.

"We will wait and see the result of the first round. We believe going to the nation is the best way on this issue as well," Erdogan said.

Mr Celik said if parliament enacts the amendment in time, Turkey would hold legislative and presidential elections at the same time.

"If it does not, then people will vote in early general elections and a referendum (on a presidency by popular suffrage) at the same time," he said.

Sweeping reforms

Mr Erdogan also proposed modifying the presidency to run for a once-renewable, five-year mandate instead of the current single, seven-year mandate.

He suggested holding legislative elections every four years instead of the current five, and asked for a speedy constitutional amendment to set the age for parliamentary eligibility at 25 in the coming elections.

Analysts say early elections would help the government stave off the risk of a deeper crisis with the army, which threatened after Friday's annulled vote to step in to protect Turkey's secular order.

It would also help the ruling party save face against its own electorate by not backing down on Mr Gul's candidacy.

The opposition and an overwhelming portion of the media, non-governmental organisations and pressure groups have been clamouring for early general elections as the only way out of the crisis.

The decision to hold early elections is likely to bring short-term relief to financial markets that slipped badly over the past two days as a result of the political tumult.

Financial markets believe a strong government will keep Turkey on track to carry out reforms demanded by the International Monetary Fund and the European Union, which Ankara is seeking to join.