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Turkey's New Leader to be Chosen After Parliament Convenes Next Week - 2002-11-07

The leader of the party that won Turkey's election says the new prime minister will not be nominated until after the new parliament convenes. Justice and Development Party leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan, made the announcement after meeting with Turkey's president

Mr. Erdogan refused to be drawn on just who the country's next prime minister will be. He said the issue had not come up during his talks with President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, and that a prime minister will be nominated only after the parliament holds its first session, sometime next week.

Mr. Erdogan is not eligible for the post because of a prior conviction on charges of seeking to incite religious hatred. That conviction, which cost him his former job as Istanbul's mayor, disqualified him from running for a seat in the parliament. Under Turkish law, only parliamentary deputies are eligible to become prime minister.

In a bid to quash speculation that he will seek to run the country through the prime minister, Mr. Erdogan said he would choose a strong and effective leader to head the government.

Financial markets remained buoyant, despite the uncertainty regarding the nomination of a prime minister, with the Istanbul Stock Exchange continuing to make hefty gains for a fourth straight day after the elections.

The mood in the markets mirrors that of the business community and western governments in the wake of the Justice and Development Party's spectacular victory at the polls, which swept away Turkey's old guard of politicians.

The only other party to clear the minimum 10 percent of the national vote needed to win seats in the parliament was the pro-secular Republican People's Party, led by Deniz Baykal. Mr. Baykal, has said that, as the sole opposition leader, he will seek to cooperate with Mr. Erdogan's party on a broad range of issues.

Few Turks appear worried about Justice and Development's clearly Islamic roots. And Mr. Erdogan, who began his career in an overtly pro-Islamic party, has repeatedly emphasized that he does not believe in mixing religion with politics.

Party officials said Thursday that the new government will keep up strong ties with Turkey's closest regional ally, Israel.

Mr. Erdogan has also said that securing Turkey's membership in the European Union is among his government's foremost goals.

That would mean bringing Turkey's constitution, drawn up by strongly pro-secular armed forces when they seized power in 1980, into line with EU standards. Party officials say the proposed changes would, among others, likely enable Mr. Erdogan to take the post of prime minister in the future.