The proposal is a bid to resolve a standoff with the country's secular opposition over who will be Turkey’s next president.
The ruling, Islamist-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) is running Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul for head of state. But opposition parties reject the choice, saying Gul could erode Turkey’s secular tradition.
The Turkish prime minister is not making his early election offer condition-free. Erdogan's government says it would also want wide-ranging election reforms in exchange, including a constitutional amendment allowing the Turkish people, not the parliament, to elect the president.
Turkey's Constitutional Court annulled the first round of a presidential vote by parliament last week. With that decision, Erdogan said, "the parliamentary democratic system has been blocked. The only way to get rid of this blockage, and to lift the domination of a minority [in the parliament] over the majority, is to go to the nation... and let the people elect their president with an election system of two rounds."
That modification, Erdogan said, would be in accordance with the principle that "sovereignty belongs unconditionally to the people," a slogan coined by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic.
The prime minister appears confident that his AKP can win the presidency in a general election -- even though it has so far been unable to get Gul elected by the parliament.
Early Elections 'Unavoidable'
The opposition is welcoming the offer of early elections, saying the current AKP-dominated parliament is incapable of deciding who will be president.
Deniz Baykal, the chairman of the main opposition party, the People's Republican party, told reporters in Ankara on May 1 that early elections are "unavoidable."
"It is a constitutional requirement," Baykal said. "A parliament that cannot elect a president should hold elections. The only thing that the Turkish parliament can do is to [call for elections]. A negotiation on that is not possible."
The decision by the Constitutional Court to annul the first round of the presidential vote by parliament last week came after opposition secularist parties boycotted the poll in the legislature. With not enough deputies attending the vote, the Constitutional Court declared it invalid.
The government says it will press for holding another parliamentary poll on May 3 in an effort to win two-thirds majority approval for Gul. If that fails, the likelihood of a general public election will increase.
As the crisis over Turkey’s president election deepens, it is exacerbating tensions between Erdogan’s government and Turkey’s army, which considers itself the guarantor of the country secular political system.
On April 27, the Turkish military threatened to interfere in the election process. It said in a statement that "it should not be forgotten that the Turkish armed forces take sides in these debates and are the absolute defender of secularism."
The army has ousted four governments in the last 50 years, most recently in 1997, when it acted against a cabinet in which Gul served.
The EU warned last week it would be bad for Turkey if the military intervened in the current crisis.
Gul and Erdogan have championed many of the reforms that Turkey would need to make to join the EU.
(compiled from agency reports)
A Muslim woman (left) watches a Christian procession in Madrid in March (AFP)
READCONFERENCE ON ISLAM: A major international conference on Islam concluded in Vienna in November 2005 with strong appeals from prominent Muslim leaders to recognize international terrorism as simply "terrorism." Political figures from Islamic countries, including the presidents of Iraq and Afghanistan, argued that it should never be labeled "Islamic" or "Muslim" terrorism because Islam is based on peace, dialogue, and tolerance. "Salaam" -- meaning "peace" -- was the key word of the three-day conference, titled "ISLAM IN A PLURALISTIC WORLD."
Iraqi President Jalal Talibani and Afghan President Hamid Karzai used the word in their remarks to emphasize the peaceful nature of Islam. Other speakers quoted passages from the Koran to the effect that all men and women, regardless of faith, are creatures of God and should live in peace with each other without discrimination...(more)
LISTENListen to Afghan President HAMID KARZAI's complete address to the Vienna conference (in English):
Real Audio Windows Media
LISTENListen to UN special envoy LAKHDAR BRAHIMI's complete address to the Vienna conference (in English):
Real Audio Windows Media
THE COMPLETE PICTURE: Click on the image to view a thematic webpage devoted to issues of religious tolerance in RFE/RL's broadcast region and around the globe.