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Turkish Gen. Staff pressuring authorities over elections - govt.

ANKARA, April 28 (RIA Novosti) - A strong statement by the Turkish General Staff is aimed at the Turkish government and is an attempt to pressure the authorities, the country's justice minister said Saturday.

Following a presidential vote in which the leading candidate failed to win the first round of a parliamentary ballot, prompting possible early legislative elections, the Turkish military high command warned government leaders early Saturday that it was concerned about unrest in the country associated with the vote, and said it was monitoring the situation closely.

"The General Staff's statement has been assessed as a lunge against the government," Cemil Cicek told a news conference in Ankara, adding that the General Staff is a constitutional institution subordinate to the government and that its head is responsible to the prime minister for fulfilling his duties.

According to television reports, Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan will hold an emergency session Saturday with members of the Islamic Justice and Development Party, which holds a ruling majority in the government, to discuss the possibility of early parliamentary elections because most opposition legislators boycotted the first round of voting Friday and challenged its validity in the Constitutional Court.

The boycott deprived the ruling Justice and Development Party candidate, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, of a two-thirds quorum in the legislature that the opposition says must be present for the voting to be valid. The ruling party has insisted that only one-third is required for a quorum.

Two further rounds are scheduled, for May 2 and May 9, although only a simple majority is required for the final vote.

Thousands gathered at a recent protest rally in the capital Ankara demonstrating for secular ideals, and another massive rally is planned for Sunday. Many fear that a presidential victory by Gul, despite the largely ceremonial nature of the post, would lead to a greater role for Islam in Turkish politics.

"The Turkish armed forces have been watching the situation with concern, especially with regard to preserving the country's secular character," the military's Web site said in a statement. "The Turkish military will, if necessary, openly and forcefully state its position in defense of the secular order. Let no one doubt our resolve."

The Turkish military has staged coups three times since the founding of the modern Turkish state in the 1920s to restore order and maintain the country's secular form of government.

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