updated 8/24/2007 11:42:59 AM ET 2007-08-24T15:42:59

Turkey’s foreign minister failed to get enough votes to be elected president in a second round of parliamentary voting Friday, but he is expected to win next week in another ballot that only requires a simple majority.

Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, the government’s candidate, won 337 votes from lawmakers. His Islamic-rooted Justice and Development party lacks the two-thirds majority of 357 votes needed to secure the election.

Two other candidates — Sabahattin Cakmakoglu, of a nationalist party, and Tayfun Icli, from a small center-left party — got 71 and 14 votes, respectively.

Gul is almost certain to win Tuesday’s vote, which would end the four-month battle over the presidency between Turkey’s secular elite and the ruling party.

Will Turkey's secular values be undermined?
Secularists oppose Gul’s candidacy, fearing he will undermine principles enshrined in the constitution despite his record as a reformer who has worked to steer Turkey toward membership in the European Union.

Gul’s nomination earlier this year sparked a political crisis, with millions taking to the streets in protest of his bid. The military — which has ousted four governments since 1960 — threatened to intervene to protect the secular system.

A parliamentary deadlock forced Gul to abandon his initial bid, but Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, emboldened by his party’s success in July’s elections, re-nominated him.

Gul’s wife wears an Islamic-style head scarf, and secularists are horrified by the prospect of a first lady in Islamic attire.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey, banned Islamic attire in daily life, and that restriction has been enforced in public offices and schools since a 1980 military coup.

Gul and Erdogan point to reforms they have carried out to advance Turkey’s bid to join the EU.

Veto powers
The post of president is largely ceremonial. But the president does have veto powers, which the current president, the secular Ahmet Necdet Sezer, has used to temporarily block legislation or the appointment of certain officials.

Gul has pledged loyalty to Turkey’s constitution and promised neutrality. Erdogan has said Gul’s membership in the party they founded in 2001 would end the minute he is elected president.

With Gul’s presidency almost certain, Sezer began paying his farewell visits this week. He met with Erdogan and Gen. Yasar Buyukanit, the military chief, on Friday. Sezer’s seven-year term would have ended on May 16, but he remains in the post until his replacement is elected.

Gul received 341 votes in a first round of voting on Monday.

The secular Republican People’s Party boycotted the vote, saying it feared Gul would undermine Turkey’s principles and laws. The party also said it would boycott receptions and trips abroad by Gul.

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