“Abdullah Gul in the third round obtained an absolute majority and was elected the 11th president of Turkey with 339 votes,” parliament speaker Koksal Toptan said after the vote, reported Reuters.

ImageThe other two contenders, Sabahattin Cakmakoglu from the right-wing Nationalist Action Party and Tayfun Icli from the center-left Democratic Left Party, got 70 and 13 votes respectively.

The Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) has 341 seats in the 550-seat parliament.

Gul, a gently spoken diplomat and an architect of Turkey’s European Union membership bid, needed a simple majority of 276 votes to win in the decisive third round ballot.

The new president is set to be sworn in at parliament at 6:00 pm (1500 GMT) before he formally takes over from outgoing President Ahmet Necdet Sezer in a ceremony closed to the press at 7:30 pm (1630 GMT).

Gul’s election came after a four-month-long political crisis when the secularist elite, including the powerful army generals, derailed his first bid.

The AKP government pushed for early elections and came out stronger, increasing its share in the legislature.

In Turkey, the government holds most power but the president can veto laws, veto appointments of officials, appoint judges and is commander in chief of the military.

No Hijab Problem

Hours before his election, a new poll showed that nearly three quarters of Turks have no problem with a hijab-clad first lady, the main argument of Gul’s opponents.

The survey, conducted by the respected Konda company for the Milliyet newspaper, showed that 72.6 percent of those polled would view it as “normal” if the wife of the president wore a hijab.

Gul’s presidential bid has sparked objections by secularist that his election would bring the first veiled first lady to the Cankaya presidential palace since the creation of the modern Turkish state.

The headscarf, an obligatory code of dress in Islam, is banned in government offices and universities.

Secularists see it as a threat to the ideology of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who threw religion out of public life as he rebuilt Turkey from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.

Gul’s wife, Hayrunisa Ozyurt, has commissioned an international fashion designer, who left his touches on the wardrobes of Hollywood superstars and wives of European politicians, to come up with a new style for her hijab.

Challenges

Political analysts warned that Gul would faces many daunting challenges in this new post, mainly striking a balance between the state institutions, run by AKP, and the military institution.

“Gul will not have an easy start,” the popular Vatan newspaper said.

“His every step… will be under scrutiny by institutions and sections of society who are sensitive on secularism.

“Gul will need to be careful and make efforts to calm them.”

Opponents fear that Gul, who has Islamic roots, would undermine the secular feature of Turkey.

The head of the powerful army, which toppled four government since 1960, warned a day earlier that “centers of evil” are seeking to systematically erode the secular system.

“The Turkish Armed Forces will not make any concessions…in its duty of guarding the Turkish Republic, a secular and social state based on the rule of law,” Yasar Buyukanit said in a written message. (IslamOnline.net & News Agencies) – mr

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