Turkey By election Eyed by Erdogan May Be Delayed

ANKARA (Reuters)–A Turkish by-election penciled in for February 9 that could open the way for ruling party leader Tayyip Erdogan to become prime minister may not be held until March or April–the head of the election board said on Thursday.

State-run Anatolian news agency quoted Tufan Algan as saying that wintery weather in February could lead to a low turnout in the election which is a re-run of the November 3 poll in the province of Siirt. The original result was canceled because of voting irregularities.

"March or April would be more suitable," Algan said.

Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Erdogan was excluded from last year’s election because of a political ban stemming from a 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred. Parliament has since changed the constitution to lift his ban–opening the way for him to stand for parliament.

He is expected to take over the job of prime minister from his close ally Abdullah Gul soon after the Siirt by-election where he is almost certain to win one of three seats on offer.

Erdogan–suspected by Turkey’s secular establishment of secretly nursing an Islamist agenda–has been treated as the country’s de facto leader during trips to European Union countries and the United States. The AKP rejects the Islamist label and has made EU membership one of its top priorities.

Southeast Turkey where Siirt is located often suffers harsh winters with snow and rain.

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