ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turks would prefer to see incumbent Abdullah Gul as their next president if they had to choose between him and Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, a Turkish opinion poll showed on Wednesday.
The results of the survey by Turkish pollster MetroPOLL suggest Erdogan could face some public resistance in achieving his goal of taking charge of a newly-constituted executive presidency in two years time.
Gul's seven-year term expires in 2014 and the survey of political attitudes showed nearly 60 percent of people thought he should be a candidate in the next election.
Asked who they would vote for if they had to choose between Gul and Erdogan, 50.9 percent said Gul and 22.7 percent said Erdogan. Another 16.1 percent said they did not know and 10.3 percent did not give an answer.
The gap between the two leaders narrowed sharply if respondents were given a free choice of presidential candidates. In that case, 20.5 percent chose Gul, 17.8 percent Erdogan and 2 percent the leader of the largest opposition CHP party.
The MetroPOLL survey was conducted between September 14-19 in 27 provinces with 1,275 people. It had a margin of error of +/- 2.7 percent.
The survey, which coincided with intensified conflict between the state and the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group, also showed 67.1 percent of respondents would approve of the closure of the parliamentary pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP).
Many Turks regard the BDP as having close ties to the PKK, designated a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and European Union. Turkish courts have banned and shut down previous pro-Kurdish political parties.
More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict since the separatist PKK took up arms against the state in 1984 and the fighting in recent months has been the most intense in more than a decade.
Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Nick Tattersall