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Turkish parliament fails to elect president in first round of voting

[JURIST] The Turkish parliament failed to elect a president Monday, with the leading candidate receiving only 341 votes. Current Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul [official website] was 26 votes shy of the number necessary to win the seat; the Turkish president is elected by a two-thirds majority of parliamentarians in the first round of voting. The main opposition Republican People's Party [party website, in Turkish] boycotted the vote, saying that Gul, a member of the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish; Wikipedia backgrounder], would try to turn Turkey into a theocratic state. A second round of voting scheduled for Friday also requires the agreement of a two-thirds majority, but a third round scheduled for next week only requires a simple majority. Gul is expected to win next week's vote. AP has more.

Gul's original candidacy in April caused controversy when he ran as the sole contender for the Turkish presidency [BBC Q&A]. The Turkish Constitutional Court voided [JURIST report] the April parliamentary vote in support of Gul because a quorum of legislators did not participate, prompting calls for constitutional reform [JURIST report]. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan [official website] accused the court of hurting democracy in its decision and said he would support dissolving parliament and holding an early parliamentary election to ensure that Turkey's leaders were chosen by the people rather than the courts. About one million protesters marched [JURIST report] in the streets of Istanbul to protest Gul and critics accused him of harboring secret plans for Islamist reforms to Turkey's strongly secular state. The Turkish army, which has ousted four presidents in four decades and regards itself as the guardian of the secular Turkish constitution [text], had also warned against instituting any Islamist reforms.

After the Constitutional Court voided the April presidential vote, members of parliament pushed through a constitutional amendment [JURIST report] to allow voters to directly elect the president. The bill was vetoed [JURIST report] by current Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer [BBC profile], and then passed by parliament a second time [JURIST report], but that vote was marred by complaints of balloting violations. The AKP then sought to hold a national referendum on the issue; Sezer later blocked the referendum [JURIST reports] from taking place at the same time as parliamentary elections [BBC Q&A] in July. The Constitutional Court has ruled that the referendum may proceed [JURIST report], but since winning re-election, the AKP has not yet scheduled a vote.

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