Friday's AK Party meeting was chaired by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's prime minister.

Women's protest

The meeting took place as hundreds of Turkish women wearing the hijab (headscarf) protested against the court ruling.

About 500 women demonstrated in the southeastern city of Diyarbakir after Friday prayers, and hundreds more in colourful headscarves chanted slogans in Istanbul.

Thousands of women have not gone to university because of the ban, which has been enforced strictly since 1997, or have gone abroad to study.

The headscarf reform has rekindled a decades-long dispute over the role of Islam in a country of 70 million that is officially secular but predominantly Muslim.

Turkey's secularist establishment, including army generals and judges, suspect the AK Party of harbouring a hidden agenda.

Ruling party's options
 
Hurriyet, one of Turkey's leading newspapers, said the AK Party executive was expected to discuss various options to deal with the political crisis, including the option of calling an early parliamentary election.
 
The Constitutional Court is expected to rule in the coming months on the party closure case brought by the Court of Appeals chief prosecutor.
 
But some analysts say that if the party feels it has been boxed in, it may make a pre-emptive move.

Mustafa Unal, a columnist for Zaman, a religious-leaning newspaper, said: "This verdict will affect the closure case negatively."

The political uncertainty has hit the Turkish lira and bonds as there are fears that the government will have to put its economic reforms on hold.

A note from Ekspres Invest, a Turkish brokerage, said: "The only certain fact is that given the essence of the turban (headscarf) verdict, political uncertainty will increase progressively in the months ahead until the political vacuum is filled."

New party

Many analysts expect the AK Party to be outlawed, although some say the court could instead decide to punish the party's leaders, given that forming a new political party would be easy under Turkish electoral law.

Senior AK Party members recently told the Reuters news agency that the party had started to believe that it would be closed and Erdogan banned from politics.

The sources, who declined to be named, said the party had begun planning to create a new political party.

Turkey has a history of banning political parties and a predecessor to the AK Party was banned in 2001 for Islamist activities.