- The Washington Times - Tuesday, May 1, 2007

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey’s highest court today annulled a parliamentary vote for an observant Muslim president, opening the way for possible early general elections.

The ruling by the Constitutional Court follows enormous protests by hundreds of thousands of pro-secular Turks against the candidacy of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a senior member of the Islamic-rooted ruling party.

The government had hoped to strengthen its authority with Mr. Gul’s bid to become Turkey’s 11th president.

However, the opposition Republican People’s Party boycotted the first round of voting for president 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,” court spokesman Hasim Kilic said. “Our court ruled that a quorum of 367 was necessary.”

Ruling party figures have said they were considering early general elections to defuse tensions with the military-backed secular establishment. Press reports said the government planned an announcement later today.

At least 700,000 protesters marched in Istanbul on Sunday to demand the resignation of the government.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan appealed for calm yesterday in a national address, saying that Turkey must ensure its stability to safeguard its economic recovery.

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