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Turkish Court Paves Way For Referendum on Direct Presidential Elections

Turkey's highest court has paved the way for an October referendum to decide whether voters will have the right to directly elect their country's president.

The court in Ankara Thursday rejected appeals to kill a constitutional reform package that includes a measure on the direct election of the president.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) had sought to quash the reform package by arguing that procedural rules had been violated when it was rushed through parliament in May.

The court's decision is a victory for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government, which pushed the reform package through parliament after lawmakers twice failed to elect a successor for Mr. Sezer.

Secular parties boycotted the elections in parliament in April, thereby forcing Mr. Erdogan's pick - Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul - to give up his candidacy.

Demonstrators protested what they said was an attempt by Mr. Erdogan's Islamist-rooted party to consolidate its hold on power. The military also opposed Gul's candidacy and threatened to intervene to protect Turkey's secular system of government.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.