Judge is tipped to win Turkish presidency

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The Turkish parliament failed to elect a president of the country yesterday, but gave strong support to a reformist judge who is likely to secure the office in later balloting.

Bulent Ecevit, the Prime Minister, secured promises from every party leader to support his candidate, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, a judge who has spoken of the need for democratic reform. He received 281 votes, falling short of the 367 required for election in the first round. Several candidates are expected to drop out of the race in coming days. The next round of balloting is on Monday.

If the balloting reaches a third round, a candidate can take the office with a majority vote. "It is clear as of now that the results will be good for Mr Sezer," Mr Ecevit said after the balloting. "I am very optimistic about the results."

Mesut Yilmaz, the leader of the Motherland Party, called on other candidates to drop out of the race. "Parliament has had its say; the other candidates should pull out," said Mr Yilmaz. Two presidential candidates are members of Mr Yilmaz's party, which is part of the governing coalition.

Earlier this week the leaders of all five parties in parliament agreed to support Judge Sezer's nomination but yesterday's vote was a secret ballot and many deputies from the ruling coalition clearly did not back him.

The vote comes two weeks after Mr Ecevit failed to muster enough votes to amend the constitution and enable President Suleyman Demirel to run for another term. Mr Demirel's term expires on 16 May. (AP)