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Last updated: June 13, 2011 9:42 am
Recep Tayyip Erdogan has promised to seek a consensus to rewrite Turkey’s constitution, after he secured a sweeping victory in parliamentary elections.
With most ballots counted on Sunday night, the prime minister’s ruling Justice & Development party (AKP) was on course for a third term in power, outstripping other parties with about 50 per cent of the vote, according to Turkish broadcasters.
The decisive victory – improving on a 47 per cent landslide in 2007 – confirms Mr Erdogan’s dominance of Turkish politics.
His populist rhetoric, authoritarian behaviour and conservative values may worry liberals, but he is a hero in many poorer urban areas, villages and to an up-and-coming middle class.
“We’re happy with him. We have more freedom, our democracy is working. He has made Turkey better known to the world,” said a middle-aged man voting in Ankara.
However, the AKP is almost certain not to achieve the 330 seats needed to take constitutional reforms to a referendum, analyses by Turkish media showed.
If confirmed, that would be a blow to Mr Erdogan, who wanted to create a stronger, US-style presidency – and fill the role himself.
Turkey’s financial markets responded positively to the outcome on Monday morning . The lira rose to Tl1.5688 against the dollar from Tl1.5770 on Friday, the benchmark February 20 2013 bond yield fell to 8.78 per cent from 8.87 per cent and the main Istanbul share index rose 0.45 per cent to 63,984.47.
In a bombastic victory speech, Mr Erdogan nonetheless laid claim to a bigger role in regional affairs, saying the election result was a victory “for Bosnia as much as Istanbul, Beirut as much as Izmir, Damascus as much as Ankara”.
He said that the people had given him a mandate “to govern, but also to make a new constitution”, promising to seek a consensus for reform with other parties and civil society groups.
But he will have to negotiate with a strengthened opposition.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, his main rival, has succeeded in revitalising the People’s Republican party (CHP), which is set to win about 26 per cent of the vote, recovering from a long spell in the wilderness.
“Let [the AKP] not forget, there is a stronger CHP ... more than a stronger CHP, there is a younger CHP,” Mr Kilicdaroglu told supporters, adding: “Our target is to be the ruling party in four years.”
The pro-Kurdish Peace & Democracy party (BDP) also won more support and will be well placed to press its demands for regional autonomy. With just over 6 per cent of the vote, it would have about 30 deputies.
The far-right Nationalist Movement party (MHP), although hit in the campaign by a series of sex scandals, is set to take 13 per cent of the vote, possibly benefiting from tactical voting by AKP opponents.
The election result will please investors who had feared rising political tension if Mr Erdogan won a mandate to press ahead with wide-ranging reforms without seeking consensus.
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