Turkish Prosecutor Casts Doubt on Erdogan Election

ANKARA (Reuters)-Turkey’s top prosecutor said on Tuesday that Tayyip Erdogan–leader of the ruling party–should not be allowed to stand at a by-election that could see him enter parliament and become prime minister.

Chief prosecutor Sabih Kanadoglu has no direct role in deciding whether Erdogan can run for the by-election in the province of Siirt but his opinion may carry some weight with electoral authorities who have the final say.

Financial markets are closely watching Erdogan’s efforts to overcome a ban from public office and take the helm of government after his Justice and Development Party (AKP) swept to victory in November general elections.

Erdogan could not run in those polls because of a 1998 conviction for inciting religious hatred.

The Siirt ballot is being rerun because voting irregularities were found and the chief prosecutor said in a statement carried by the state-run Anatolian news agency that only those who qualified for the initial poll should be allowed to stand.

Parliament has passed constitutional reforms to lift Erdogan’s ban and the former Istanbul mayor is widely expected to run for the by-election likely to be held in February or March in Siirt.

If Erdogan can enter parliament he is expected to take over as prime minister from his close aide Abdullah Gul.

Turkey’s secular establishment regards Erdogan with deep suspicion–believing he wants to dismantle Turkey’s secular system in favor of a more Islamic code. Secularist prosecutors have opened a range of court cases against him.

Erdogan and the AKP have their roots in political Islam but say they have changed and aim to maintain secularism and Turkey’s close ties to the United States and Europe.

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