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Erdogan enters Turkey by-election

Erdogan was jailed for reading a poem a court said incited religious hatred.

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ANKARA, Turkey -- Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan, banned from being prime minister, plans to stand in a by-election, his AKP party said.

Erdogan was banned from standing in the November 3 general election, which his party overwhelmingly won, because of a conviction for inciting religious hatred by reciting a poem.

He plans to run in the by-election early in 2003, that could open the way to making him the next prime minister, Justice and Development Party (AKP) said on Monday.

"Erdogan will be a candidate for Siirt," the AKP said on its web site, Reuters reported.

Voting irregularities led to the cancellation of ballots in the southeast constituency of Siirt, prompting a by-election, probably in early February.

Siirt elected three MPs to parliament on November 3, one from the AKP, one independent and one from the main opposition Republican People's Party.

The AKP has enough parliamentary seats to push through legal changes that will end Erdogan's ban from public office.

Erdogan has denied allegations by Turkey's armed forces and judiciary of having a radical Islamist agenda. He said he has turned AKP into a moderate conservative party.

Abdullah Gul, a close colleague of Erdogan, is prime minister but was widely expected to step down should his party leader enter parliament, Reuters reported.

Erdogan's bid for election has been supported by opposition leader Deniz Baykal.

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