Press Review

FRESH FIRST ROUND OF PRESIDENTIAL ELECTION SET FOR SUNDAY

Parliament yesterday decided to hold a fresh first round of the presidential election on Sunday, after a top court annulled the initial first round for failing to meet a quorum. Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the sole candidate. If the quorum of 367 cannot be reached in the first round, another attempt will follow next Wednesday. But if 367 deputies are present for the vote, then a second round of voting is set for Wednesday, followed by possible third and fourth rounds at three-day intervals. Meanwhile, the main opposition Republican People Party (CHP) objected to the schedule, arguing that the number of rounds had been increased unconstitutionally. /Hurriyet/

GENERAL ELECTIONS SET FOR JULY 22

Parliament's Constitutional Commission yesterday agreed to hold early general elections on July 22. At the commission meeting, Supreme Board of Elections (YSK) Chairman Muharrem Aydin said that preparations could not be completed before that date, which needs Parliament's approval to become official. The commission also passed a constitutional amendment enabling people as young as 25 to run for the Parliament and independent candidates to appear on ballots. Parliament's Consultation Council is expected to meet this morning to debate the commission's decisions followed by a vote in the full Parliament, where they are expected to pass. In related news, ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) deputy leader Salih Kapusuz said that the general and presidential elections could be held together, should the latter be shifted from Parliament to the people. /Turkiye/

CONSTITUTIONAL COURT REBUKES ERDOGAN'S REMARKS

The Chairmanship of the Constitutional Court yesterday issued a harsh rebuke to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for branding a recent court decision on the presidential election a "bullet aimed at democracy." A chairmanship statement called Erdogan's remarks irresponsible and decried the Constitutional Court being made into a target. Also criticizing main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Deniz Baykal's warning that a "dangerous atmosphere" could follow a court verdict against him, the court called his remarks provocative and irresponsible. /Cumhuriyet/

PM ERDOGAN: "THE COURT DECISION WAS A BULLET AIMED AT DEMOCRACY"

Speaking at his party group meeting, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday called on the opposition not to shrink from general elections or a proposal to elect the president through a popular vote. Erdogan criticized main opposition Republican Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal and also blasted the Constitutional Court decision annulling last week's first-round presidential vote as "a bullet aimed at democracy." "After this decision, it will be next to impossible to elect a president in future parliaments," he argued. "This subjects the majority of the people to the will of the minority. If a referendum is needed to break this blockade, we're in. Because the CHP doesn't respect the nation, they can't let the president be elected by the people, and they will also try to block this." He added, "We have to think about recent developments. Does Turkey deserve this? Let's not forget the terms of political paralysis. We're not a religion-oriented party. Secularism is a safeguard for all of us. The republic and the democracy are ours." /Sabah/

CHP'S BAYKAL CALLS ON RIVAL PARTY TO MERGE

Main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) leader Deniz Baykal yesterday called on the rival Democratic Left Party (DSP) to merge into his party before the upcoming general elections. Baykal, speaking at his parliamentary group meeting, asked the DSP to consider their offer for unification. "We want to unify with the DSP," said Baykal, underlining that the DSP's founder, the late Bulent Ecevit, also once led the CHP. Later, commenting on Baykal's call, DSP leader Zeki Sezer said that the offer would be taken up by his party and they would give an answer soon. Moreover, Social Democratic Populist Party (SHP) leader Murat Karayalcin yesterday also urged all social democratic parties to enter the elections under the CHP's umbrella, saying that it was both Turkey's oldest party and his former home. However, Karayalcin opposed shuttering his current party. /Milliyet/

MANISA, CANAKKALE TO HOST SECULARIST RALLIES

A mass rally in the western city of Manisa is planned for this weekend following similar demonstrations in Ankara and Istanbul in recent weeks that attracted hundreds of thousands. The rally is being organized by 75 non-governmental organizations led by the Ataturk Thought Association. Organizers place special importance on the rally, as Manisa is Parliament Speaker Bulent Arinc's hometown. Organizers also reported that more rallies would take place throughout the country, including in Canakkale next weekend. /Turkish Daily News/

MUMCU PROPOSES SEPTEMBER FOR GENERAL ELECTIONS

Opposition Motherland Party (ANAVATAN) leader Erkan Mumcu yesterday proposed that early general elections be held in September. Mumcu also said that his deputies wouldn't take part in another attempt by this Parliament to elect the president, saying that doing so would be in vain. Stating that the government was in a constant rush and floundering, Mumcu argued, "The government has lost the initiative. There's no need for panic. A decision for general elections will be taken by the Parliament, but June 24 isn't an appropriate date." In related news, Mumcu spoke to opposition True Path Party (DYP) leader Mehmet Agar on the telephone about the Constitutional Court's recent decision annulling the first-round vote for president and subsequent calls for early general elections. The two leaders tried to bridge disagreements and continue a unification process between the two parties. /Sabah/

IN WAKE OF RULING, EU'S REHN URGES RESPECT AND RESPONSIBILITY FOR ELECTIONS

European Union Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn yesterday stated that the EU was founded on the principles of freedom, democracy, respect for human rights, the rule of law and the military being under civil administration, and that countries wishing to join the block must respect these principles. Rehn also said that the recent Constitutional Court decision annulling the first-round vote for president had been noted and that the EU Commission was expecting that the upcoming general and presidential elections would be held without any irregularities and in an atmosphere of responsible debate and political stability. /Star/

BLAIR: "THOSE ENGAGED IN THE POLITICAL PROCESS MUST DO SO ACCORDING TO TURKEY'S DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES"

In the wake of recent developments in Turkey, British Foreign Minister Tony Blair on Tuesday expressed confidence in Turkey's role as a democratic nation. "I have been following developments in Turkey following the first round of the presidential elections closely," said a statement by Blair. "As I saw when I visited Prime Minister Erdogan in December, Turkey is a strong democracy. It is essential that all those engaged in the political process do so in accordance with Turkey's well-established democratic principles and in compliance with the constitution. I am confident that this will happen, and that Turkey will continue to play a crucial role as a key and democratic partner." Meanwhile, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said that the US continued to support democracy in Turkey and that the results of the presidential election should be respected. /Star/

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