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Turkey's Erdogan vows consensus after victory

<cite>Source : Agencies</cite>

Ankara : 13 Jun 2011

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan's AK Party has scored a resounding third consecutive election victory, but he will need to seek consensus to push ahead with a planned new constitution.

Erdogan, whose AK has transformed Muslim Turkey into one of the world's fastest-growing economies and ended a cycle of military coups, won some 50 percent of the vote in Sunday's election.

The result boosted financial markets. The Turkish lira strengthened against the dollar, while bonds also gained as investors saw the result forcing the AK Party to compromise with other parties to replace the constitution, which was written almost 30 years ago during a period of military coup.

Though Erdogan failed to win enough seats to call a referendum on a planned new constitution, the vote marked AK's biggest electoral tally since it first came to power in 2002, and Turkish newspapers lauded his success.

"Turkey loves him", "The master of the ballot box", said front page headlines next to pictures of a smiling Erdogan waving to cheering supporters outside party headquarters.

Preliminary results showed AK winning 49.9 percent, or 326 seats, just below the 330 required for a plebiscite, and less than the 331 of the 550 seats it had in the last parliament.

In a victory speech before thousands of flag-waving supporters in the capital Ankara, he pledged "humility" and said he would work with rivals.

Erdogan, also the chairman of the Justice & Development (AK) Party, said, "the Turkish nation has not authorized us only to form a new government, but to prepare a new constitution. Our nation has given us the message that the new constitution should be made with compromise, consultation and negotiation."

Addressing people from the balcony of the AK Party headquarters in Ankara, Erdogan said, "today, the AK Party received a great support from our people. Our nation has not authorized us only to form a new government, but to prepare a new constitution. Our nation has given us the message that the new constitution should be made with compromise, consultation and negotiation."

"We will be seeking consensus with the main opposition, the opposition, parties outside of parliament, the media, NGOs, with academics, with anyone who has something to say. We are going to prepare a civilian and liberal constitution all together. The new constitution will have an equal distance to each of all 74 million citizens. The new constitution will respond to demands of our citizens for freedom, democracy, peace and justice," he said.

Erdogan said that no one should have any doubt that regardless of whoever voted for his party, the life style, beliefs and values of everyone were under the protection of his party.

I must say with great pride that Turkey reached democratic maturity that is an example to the whole region and the world, Erdogan said.

Democracy, a system for which Adnan Menderes, Fatin Rustu Zorlu and Hasan Polatkan lost lives, is becoming a solid force in this country of ours. The dreams and wishes of late President Turgut Ozal are becoming reality, Erdogan said.

A Turkey, in which gangs drew the agenda, is behind us with God's permission and the nation's appreciation. My nation, with no doubt, won. Guardianship above the will of the nation, illegality and the superiority of individuals above laws have lost. A new and clean page has been opened for Turkey, Erdogan said.

I want everyone to be aware that the AK Party will be the government of 74 million Turks regardless of who voted in favor or not, Erdogan underlined.

AK Party exists in all 780,000 square kilometers of Turkey. AK Party exists in the west, in the east, in the north and in the south. AK Party is the first party in all seven
geographic regions of Turkey. Why? It is because we have not alienated any one. We have embraced everybody. We have loved all as we regard them part of the creator. We have not alienated anyone in the past 8.5 years, Erdogan said.

We have been sincere in raising the standard of democracy. We have been in an effort to build a Turkey in which 74 million people lived in brotherhood. We will never go back. The life style, beliefs, and values are under our safe custody, Erdogan said.

No one should doubt that, regardless of whoever they voted for, each individual will live in tranquility, confidence, peace and justice. What we have accomplished are an assurance of things to be done. With the strength we receive from our nation, democracy in Turkey will reach higher standards, freedoms will develop and everyone will be able to express himself/herself more easily. I wish that the 74 million people of Turkey will be in a state of peace and happiness, Erdogan also said.

"Strong Kurdish showing"

Since crushing old establishment parties on a wave of support from a rising middle class of religious Turks, Erdogan has challenged the secularist military and judiciary with reforms meant to win Turkey membership in the European Union.

He also has set the long-time NATO member and U.S. ally on a more assertive foreign policy course, building closer relations with Middle East countries, including Iran.

The new leader of the secularist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), which garnered its best result in more than 30 years with 25.9 percent of the vote, warned Erdogan that he would be watching his movements closely.

"We wish all success to AKP, but they must remember there's a stronger main opposition party now," Kemal Kilicdaroglu said.

There has been speculation that Erdogan would seek to move Turkey toward a more presidential system of government, with the ultimate aim of becoming president himself.

Besides the economy, Erdogan's government also will need to tackle a separatist conflict in the mainly Kurdish southeast. A strong showing by the pro-Kurdish BDP in the Kurdish region played a role in denying the AK a bigger vote haul.

On Sunday night, a percussion bomb exploded in southeast Turkey, injuring 11 people celebrating election victories of Kurdish candidates, security and hospital officials said.

The explosion occurred around 11 p.m. (2000 GMT) in the province of Sirnak, near the Iraqi border. Casualties were being treated at a nearby hospital.

Analysts said Erdogan will need to focus as well on reviving Turkey's faltering EU bid and on unrest in neighbouring Syria, which has sent thousands of refugees spilling over the border as Syrians flee an increasingly bloody crackdown on popular unrest.

 

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