Source AP ©

Turkish Parliament approves constitutional amendment allowing people to elect the president

The Turkish Parliament approved a key constitutional amendment that would allow the people rather than legislators to elect the president.

The Islamic-rooted government pushed for the amendment after opposition legislators boycotted a process to elect a new president over fears that the candidate, who had been chosen by the governing Islamic-rooted party, might increase the influence of religion on politics in this Muslim but secular country.

The political deadlock has forced the government to declare early general elections on July 22. Opposition parties have begun seeking mergers and election alliances to diminish the chances that Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party would have enough seats to rule alone again.

Legislators voted 376-1 in favor of the amendment, which also reduces the presidential term from seven years to five and allows the president to run for a second term.

It was not clear, however, if the government would be able to hold general and presidential elections on the same day.

President Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who holds veto power on legislation, could decide to veto the measure or take it to a referendum. Sezer already has spoken against the measure, saying that the time was not right for such a change because of ongoing political tensions.

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