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Turkey's Gul Fails to Secure Presidency in First Round of Voting


Turkey's new parliament, divided along party lines, could not elect a president Monday, as frontrunner Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul failed to secure the two-thirds majority needed in a first round of voting. For VOA, Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Turkish Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul has failed to win enough support to be elected president in the first round of voting in Turkey's parliament.

Mr. Gul, a member of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AK party, received 341 votes in parliament Monday, short of the 387 needed for the two-thirds majority required for a first-round election.

Despite the defeat, he is expected to win in a further round next week. In the third round, a candidate only needs to secure a simple majority of votes, which the AK Party has, but that could herald tense times ahead, analysts say.

In April, the main opposition party boycotted the initial presidential vote, labeling Mr. Gul, a devote Muslim, a threat to the secular system.

Protesters took to the streets in protest of Mr. Gul's candidacy and the military warned it was ready to step in. But since then, the AK party has been returned to parliament with 46 percent of the vote.

Speaking just before Monday's vote, Mr. Gul said the fact that the ruling party was voted back into power was proof that most Turks do not believe he has an Islamic agenda. Despite the victory, political columnist Nuray Mert says Mr. Gul remains a divisive candidate.

"There must be a compromise and consensus on the issue of the presidency and Gul can be hardly be a name of compromise and consent," said Mert.

There already has been, much debate because Mr. Gul's wife wears the Islamic headscarf. Religious dress is banned from many state buildings and many secularists are opposed to the idea of the country's first lady wearing a religious headscarf.

Mr. Gul is now working hard to bridge the deep divisions within Turkish society over his bid. On announcing his candidacy last week he pledged he would defend secularism.

"My priority is to follow the Turkish constitution and its principles of secularism and the rule of law," he said. "My guide will always be upholding the constitution."

In the last week Mr. Gul has been courting all the opposition parties, along with trade union and business leaders. Those efforts are expected to continue in the coming days as parliament continues to vote on the presidency.

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