Gul elected Turkish president as military warns against undermining constitution

[JURIST] Abdullah Gul [BBC profile] was sworn in as Turkey's new president Tuesday after winning a majority of votes in the Turkish parliament's third round of voting on his candidacy. Gul, supported by the Islamist-leaning Justice and Development Party (AKP) [party website, in Turkish] who had been serving as Turkey's foreign minster, pledged to uphold Turkey's secularist traditions. The Turkish army [official website], which has ousted four presidents in four decades and regards itself as the guardian of the secular Turkish constitution [text], warned Monday that "centers of evil" were trying to undermine the constitution. Earlier votes in parliament, which elects the president, failed to elect Gul by the required two-thirds majority. Gul only needed a simple majority in the third round of voting, and received backing from 339 of 550 parliamentarians. BBC News 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 army 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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