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Turkey's Erdogan declares victory in local elections

© Photo: AFP

Video by Richelle HARRISON PLESSE

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2014-03-31

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in local polls and said he would “enter the lair” of enemies, who have leaked state secrets and accused him of corruption, saying “they will pay for this”.

But while Erdogan’s AK Party was well ahead in overall votes after Sunday’s elections, the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) appeared close to seizing the capital, Ankara.

Erdogan, fighting the biggest challenge of his 12-year rule, addressed supporters from a balcony at the AKP headquarters at the end of a long and bitter election campaign in which he has labelled his opponents “terrorists” and an “alliance of evil”.

The harsh tone of his balcony address suggested he felt he now had a mandate for strong action against his enemies. “From tomorrow, there may be some who flee,” he said.

The election campaign has been dominated by a power struggle between Erdogan and a moderate US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of using a network of followers in police and judiciary to fabricate graft accusations in an effort to topple him.

Erdogan has purged thousands of police officers and hundreds of judges and prosecutors since anti-graft raids in December targeting businessmen close to him and sons of ministers.

“We will enter their lair,” he said. “They will pay the price, they will be brought to account. How can you threaten national security?”

Market woes

The turbulence has unnerved investors, helping keep the lira currency near record lows and driving stocks down some 8.6 percent since late last year. The strong AKP showing, signalling political continuity, could calm nerves.

“From a market perspective, the election result appears to be more or less what the doctor ordered: a solid win for the AKP, which shores up the position of Turkey’s ruling party,” said Nicholas Spiro, head of Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

At the end of last week, the crisis reached a new level when a recording of a top-secret meeting of security officials about possible intervention in Syria was posted anonymously on YouTube.

The action, for which Gulen denies any responsibility, raised serious concern about government control of its own security apparatus and fears of further damaging leaks.

NATO member Turkey, under Erdogan, was long held up as a model for a Muslim democracy. The prime minister carried out many reforms that improved the human rights situation in the country and drove the economy. But since a crackdown on anti-government protests last June he has been accused of intolerance.

‘Cleaning up’

With more than two thirds of votes counted, AKP, in power since 2002, were winning between 43 and 47 percent of the vote, the opposition CHP trailing with 26 tp 28 percent, according to Turkish media. If borne out, the result would be on the upper end of what Erdogan might have expected, although the race for Ankara was going down to the line.

The CHP, Erdogan said, must look at itself in the mirror.

“The old Turkey is no longer. The new Turkey is here,” he said, to cheers from supporters who shouted "Allahu Akbar (God is greatest)" and “Turkey is proud of you”. “Today is the victory day of the new Turkey, 77 million united...as brothers.”

Erdogan, lacking his own trained personnel, filled government departments with Gulen supporters when he first was elected in 2002. Gulen runs a huge network of schools and businesses and is widely credited with having helped him break the army’s political power using his people in police and judiciary.

But friction has grown between the two men and came to a head when Erdogan moved to curb his influence and close the schools that are a key source of income and influence.

Erdogan seems likely now to step up his drive against the followers of Gulen, who denies any wrongdoing. Criminal investigations and arrests could follow, especially after last Thursday’s leak of the meeting between spymaster Hakan Fidan, a close Erdogan confidante, and military and civilian chiefs.

“Let me tell you, Erdogan’s response is coming,” said the chairman of think-tank Tesev, Can Paker, who is seen as close to Erdogan.

“He will harshly and fully clean up the police and judiciary. And he will purge the press that supported the leaks. He will most certainly do that. He will say ‘I was elected to eliminate them.’ He is not going to soften.”

(FRANCE 24 with REUTERS)

Date created : 2014-03-30

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