Turkish parliament speaker Yildirim Akbulut, who was runner-up in the parliamentary vote to elect the country's next president, pulled out of the race Wednesday.
"The second round vote indicated what MPs want. I am withdrawing my candidacy in respect of this," Akbulut, from the center-right Motherland Party (ANAP) of the coalition, told a press conference at parliament.
In Monday's second-round vote, Akbulut scraped only 88 votes, trailing far behind the opposition-backed government candidate, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, who mustered 314 votes in the 550-seat house.
The ballot did not produce an outright winner as no candidate managed to get the required 367 votes, but it was clear that Sezer, the head of the constitutional court, would clinch victory in the third round.
Sezer needs the backing of at least 276 MPs in Friday's third round vote, a threshold that observers say he will have no difficulty overcoming.
In a surprising move, Turkish Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and his two coalition partners agreed to nominate Sezer as their consensus candidate and succeeded in receiving backing for him from the opposition.
But the first two ballots saw many deputies voting for other candidates out of protest at their leaders reaching agreement on a candidate outside parliament without consulting them.
Akbulut also criticized ANAP leader Mesut Yilmaz for failing to discuss Sezer's candidacy with his deputies, describing it as a "breach of democracy within the party".
Akbulut's retirement from the race leaves only five contenders running against Sezer Friday to replace President Suleyman Demirel whose mandate expires on May 16 -- ANKARA (AFP).
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )