Turkey's Gul could run again for president - TV

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ANKARA, Sep 25 (Reuters) Turkish President Abdullah Gul, elected by parliament only last month, is ready to run again for the top job if voters approve constitutional changes in an Oct. 21 referendum, his spokesman was quoted as saying today.

Turkish voters are widely expected in next month's referendum to back a reform that would mean presidents are elected in future by the people instead of by parliament.

Some legal experts say Gul should then resign and re-submit his candidacy in a nationwide election for a new head of state. Others say parliament has elected Gul for a seven-year term and that the referendum result would only apply to his successors.

''If the referendum result is that the people should choose the president, Abdullah Gul will be a candidate,'' CNN Turk television quoted spokesman Ahmet Sever as saying.

Sever also repeated Gul's determination to be an active and fair-minded president working for national unity and harmony.

Under the reforms, the president would be elected for five years and would be able to stand for a second term. At present, the president can only serve a single seven-year term.

Gul's path to the presidential palace has been dogged by controversy because of his Islamist past and the fact his wife wears the Muslim headscarf.

Turkey's secular elite, including army generals, thwarted Gul's first bid to become president in May, triggering an early parliamentary election that the ruling AK Party then won. The assembly finally elected Gul as president in August.

The military, which 10 years ago ousted a government it viewed as too Islamist, has made clear its displeasure at Gul's election but analysts say it is unlikely to act against him because of the president's and the AK Party's popularity.

Analysts say Gul, a gently-spoken former foreign minister, is also likely to win any national poll to elect a president.

Gul and the AK Party deny any Islamist agenda, but their plans for a new constitution that boosts individual rights and freedoms have alarmed secularists, who fear it will lead to an easing of the ban on the Muslim headscarf in universities.

Gul's headscarf-wearing wife has so far kept a low profile at state events to avoid upsetting the secularists.

REUTERS ARB ND1415

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