Secretary of State says US to respect Turkey's democratic choice
( Cihan ) - US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on Thursday lauded Turkey's ruling party, which failed to elect its presidential candidate, sparking a political tension over the prospect of the country's top spot.
"It's very important that we support their democratic processes," she told a Senate foreign relations hearing, adding that the ruling party "has been dedicated to pulling Turkey west towards Europe."
With the help of a small opposition party, Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Thursday approved a reform package on major constitutional amendments, including the election of the president by direct popular vote, instead of lawmakers.
The amendments followed a political deadlock after Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a member of the AKP and the sole candidate in the presidential run, failed twice to garner enough votes from Turkish MPs to become president.
One of the constitutional amendments would allow Turkey's president to be elected directly by the people, instead of by lawmakers.
Another amendment was that the president will be elected for a once-renewable five-year term, instead of a single, seven-year term.
Rice noted that the AKP government started accession talks with the European Union and adopted a number of EU-inspired laws on religious and individual freedoms.
"The last few years have actually not been years in which one could say that Turkey was pulling away from its European traditions but I think trying to move more actively toward it," she told the US senators.