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Turkey's Parliament Elects Gul as President

28 August 2007

Turkey's parliament has elected Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul as the country's new president, despite fears from critics that he will undermine Turkey's secular system.

The vote Tuesday was the third round of balloting in the election. Only a simple majority in the 550-seat chamber was necessary for victory today, instead of the two-thirds required in the previous rounds. Gul got 339 votes.

Gul, of the ruling Justice and Development Party, failed earlier this month to win the two-thirds majority required for a first or second round victory.

A devout Muslim, Gul is Turkey's first head of state with a background in political Islam. However, he has pledged to uphold the nation's strong secular traditions separating government and religion.

Turkey's military chief warned Monday of threats to those traditions, vowing that the military will protect Turkey's secular and democratic structures.

General Yasar Buyukanit, head of the staunchly secularist military, said "centers of evil" are trying to undermine Turkish secularism. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has warned the military to stay out of politics.

Gul's wife wears an Islamic headscarf, which has been banned in Turkey's public offices and schools for nearly three decades.

Gul's nomination for president earlier this year sparked a political crisis in which thousands of secularists took to the streets to protest his candidacy.

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

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