(photo credit: AP)
Turkey's Islamic-rooted ruling party appealed to parliament Wednesday to declare early general elections to be held June 24, opening the way for an easing of tensions with the secular establishment.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced the decision in response to secularists' fears that his administration, by proposing a candidate for president with a background in the Islamic political movement, would allow more religious influence in politics that could undermine their Western way of life.
By holding early elections for a government with a fresh mandate, Erdogan hopes to resolve a crisis sent the stock market tumbling and prompted the pro-secular military to threaten to intervene.
"God willing, Turkey will go back to its track," Erdogan told reporters late Tuesday, referring to the economic and political stability that Turkey had enjoyed in recent years.
In a setback for his government, the country's highest court on Tuesday halted the parliamentary vote for president that looked set to elect the ruling party's candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul.
Acting on a protest from the opposition, the Constitutional Court ruled that there were not enough legislators present during the first round of voting on Friday, and canceled the round. The opposition had boycotted the vote, depriving the ruling party of a quorum of two-thirds of lawmakers in the 550-seat Parliament.
Gul said he would not withdraw his candidacy despite the ruling and urged parliamentary elections to be held "as soon as possible."