Ruling Party Wins Turkish Elections | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 23.07.2007
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Ruling Party Wins Turkish Elections

Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) on Monday prepared for its second five-year term in power after winning a landslide victory in legislative elections.

Premier Erdogan (right) and his wife on Sunday

Premier Erdogan (right) and his wife on Sunday

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan had called Sunday's early election after his party was blocked from electing one of its own as president in April amid a secularist campaign accusing his AKP party of seeking to erode Turkey's fiercely-guarded secular system.

"Our democracy has successfully passed a test ... Our unity, democracy and the republic have emerged stronger from the ballot box," Erdogan said overnight outside AKP headquarters as fireworks lit up the sky and hundreds of supporters cheered.

The governing party, which has its roots in a now-banned Islamist movement, won 46.3 percent of the vote, leading its closest rival by a wide margin, according to unofficial results after 99.9 percent of the ballots were counted.

It was the largest support a Turkish party has gained since the 1969 legislative election.

A comfortable lead

The support the AKP garnered should translate into 339 seats in the 550-member parliament, enough for it to once again form a government on its own.

Wahlen in der Türkei

Turks voted Sunday for a new parliament that will face a host of challenges

The party had 352 members in the outgoing house and despite support for it increasing by 12 percentage points compared to 2002, the number of its seats will decline because more parties will be represented in parliament.

"We will pursue economic and democracy reforms with determination," Erdogan said, pledging also commitment to the secular system and Turkey's EU membership bid.

The secularist main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) finished second with 20.9 percent of vote and an estimated 112 seats, according to unofficial results. The right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) was third with 14.2 percent and 71 seats.

No other party passed the 10-percent national threshold needed to enter parliament, but 28 independent candidates won seats, 24 of them Kurds campaigning for broader rights for their sizeable community.

Populist policies

With virtually no chance of actually winning government, the AKP's nearest rivals had campaigned on populist policies and waged a scare campaign that portrayed the government as being not only anti-secular but also of failing to adequately deal with rebels from the Kurdish Workers' Party, of whom around 3,500 are based in northern Iraq.

Around 42.5 million people were eligible to vote in Sunday's election of 550 members of parliament. Ten people were injured in fighting at voting booths in the south-east, but in general voting was peaceful at 160,000 polling stations across the country.

Erdogan was forced to call Sunday's election after a bungled attempt to place his right-hand man, Foreign Minister Abdullah Gül, in the Presidential Palace in Ankara.

Millions of people took to the streets to protest the prospect of Gül becoming president. They objected to Gül's past involvement in conservative Islamist groups, the fact that his wife wears an Islamic-style headscarf -- no president's wife in Turkey has ever worn one -- and also at the prospect of the AKP controlling the government, the parliament and presidency.

The military stepped in in April effectively scuttling the presidential election process by declaring it would do whatever necessary to protect secularism.

As soon as the new parliament opens, its first task will be to elect a new president. Erdogan has said he will seek a compromise in the presidential election, but insists that the candidate must be from his party.

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