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Turkish Parliament Approves Secular Politician as New Speaker

Turkey's parliament has approved the ruling party's nomination of a secular politician to the key post of parliamentary speaker.

Lawmakers Thursday elected Justice and Development Party member Koksal Toptan by a large majority of 450 votes in the 550-seat chamber. He received strong backing from opposition deputies and easily defeated his only rival, a far-right lawmaker.

Toptan does not have an Islamist background.

Justice and Development -- which has Islamist roots -- nominated Toptan Wednesday in a gesture to secular groups who strongly oppose the mixing of religion and state.

In his speech to parliament Thursday, Toptan called for reconciliation in Turkey after months of political tension between the ruling party and secularists.

The ruling party now faces the more difficult task of picking a candidate for president in the coming weeks.

Before joining Justice and Development, Toptan served in previous secular governments as minister of education and of culture.