Erdogan wins in Turkey, says democracy `test' passed

We've passed an important test of democracy that is an example to the world,'' Erdogan told a cheering crowd of thousands.

Erdogan wins in Turkey, says democracy `test' passed
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan called his victory in Turkey's election a boost for democracy in the Muslim country, where the secularist military is challenging the scope of his Islamic-rooted party's governing power.

``We've passed an important test of democracy that is an example to the world,'' Erdogan told a cheering crowd of thousands gathered late yesterday at his party's headquarters in the capital Ankara. ``The people have pronounced the Justice and Development Party as the central political power in Turkey.''

Erdogan, 53, secured the largest share of votes in a Turkish election since 1965, giving him a mandate to bring the nation closer to the European Union and weaken the political influence of the military, which moved to block his choice for president three months ago.

Justice led with 47 percent of the vote with all ballots counted, more than twice the share of its nearest rival, the state-owned Anatolia News Agency said. A projection by the CNN Turk news channel gave the party 341 seats in the 550-seat parliament.

Justice's victory ``shows that the `them and us' distinction which was valid in the pre-election period has now been entirely removed,'' said Guler Sabanci, chairwoman of Haci Omer Sabanci Holding AS, which controls lender Akbank TAS, Turkey's biggest company by market value.

``It is now the party of the center, not only the party of one faction,'' Sabanci said in an e-mailed response to questions from Bloomberg News.

Economic Confidence

Confidence in Turkey's $400 billion economy was shaken in April after Erdogan sought to elect Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a pious Muslim and a longtime confidant, as president in defiance of the military.

The military has traditionally enforced stability in Turkey and the separation of mosque and state, ousting four governments since 1960.

Erdogan said his party wouldn't seek to compromise Turkey's secular principles. ``Our success in the election won't spoil us, it increases our responsibility,'' he told his supporters late yesterday. ``We feel that responsibility on our shoulders.''

The Constitutional Court on May 1 blocked Gul's candidacy on a technicality, prompting Erdogan to bring forward the election from November in a bid to affirm his mandate. In yesterday's elections, Justice broadened its popular support by 13 percentage points over the 2002 election that brought it to power.

Market Surge

The ISE National-100 stock index in Istanbul gained 3 percent to 54,554.76 in Istanbul at 10:15 a.m., extending a 12 percent rally this month on expectations that Erdogan would retain power. The lira gained 1.54 percent to 1.254 against the dollar, its highest since March 2005, and bond yields fell 25 basis points to 17.21 percent. A basis point is 0.01 percentage point.

``Definitely the market reaction will be positive, but starting from mid-August, we'll be concentrating on the presidential election,'' said Ozgur Altug, chief economist at Raymond James Securities in Istanbul.

The process for the next parliament to elect the president is likely to begin in mid-August, based on a preliminary government schedule.

Egemen Bagis, an adviser to Erdogan, said in an interview that the government may seek support for Gul's candidacy from the Nationalist Action Party, which was voted into parliament in the election. ``We will find some kind of consensus,'' he said.

Erdogan is backed by Turkey's conservative majority, who want him to end curbs on religious expression as part of steps to join the EU.

EU Statement

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso wished Erdogan success in his pledges to ensure that Turkey takes ``sustained movement towards the European Union.''

``Turkey is not Islamicizing, it's normalizing,'' said Mustafa Akyol, an author of books on political Islam and ethnic Kurds in Turkey. ``To a certain extent, Turkey already is Islamic, and now it's becoming more democratic and open. It's not a country run by the elite anymore.''

The election will also give Erdogan a vote of confidence to push ahead with economic measures that brought record foreign investment of $20 billion last year. The economy has grown for 21 straight quarters, the longest period since Turkey was founded in 1923.

Some of Erdogan's foes, citing what they see as threats to the secular code of the nation's founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, say he is trying to bring Iran-like Islamic restrictions to Turkish society. Justice favors lifting the ban on the wearing of the Islamic headscarf in government buildings, and the wives of both Erdogan and Gul wear the covering.

Balance `Shifting'

``The balance of power in Turkey is shifting toward a new Turkey, empowering conservatives who are more open to democracy and the global economy than their secular counterparts,'' said Wolfango Piccoli, an analyst at the political-risk consulting firm Eurasia Group in London.

Justice's legislative majority will be reduced by a few seats from the current 352 seats because of the entry of a third party into parliament.

The Republican People's Party, Erdogan's main political rival, will take 21 percent, and the Nationalist Action Party will get 14 percent, according to the election results. The Nationalists passed the 10 percent threshold for political parties to join the legislature.

``The people have given us the job of watching the government's work in parliament,'' said Cihan Pacaci, general secretary of the nationalist party, according to the Anatolia agency.

Twenty-eight politicians, many of them backed by Turkey's main pro-Kurdish party, are likely to enter parliament as independent deputies, according to CNN Turk.

The Nationalists and Republicans are more skeptical about Turkey's EU bid and foreign investment.

Bloomberg

Güncelleme Tarihi: 24 Temmuz 2007, 09:30
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