Tuesday 23 January 2018

Shock election victory boosts Erdogan's plans for Turkish power grab

A young man waves flags outside the AK Party headquarters in Ankara
A young man waves flags outside the AK Party headquarters in Ankara
Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan poses as he casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul

Raziye Akkoc London

Turkey's ruling party won a majority in a shock ­general election victory that will consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's power and raise fears the country is becoming even more authoritarian.

The vote was called after Mr Erdogan's party failed to win parliamentary elections outright in June.

To win a majority, a party must win 276 seats in the national assembly. With nearly all the votes counted, the Justice and Development Party (AKP) had won nearly 50 per cent of the votes and was on course to win at least 310 seats, ­according to state broadcaster TRT.

To the relief of many inside and outside of Turkey, the HDP party, which in June became the first pro-Kurdish party to pass the 10pc threshold needed to win seats, retained a similar level of support on 10.6pc.

Last night, Ahmet Davutoglu, the prime minister, told supporters: "Today is a victory for our democracy and our people."

The AKP had been ­criticised for its actions on press ­freedom after a major media company was seized days before polls opened and a leaked EU ­progress report draft warned of Turkey's possible slide into authoritarianism.

Opinion polls had not suggested a majority for the AKP and its supporters feared that the party would be punished for the instability created by the return of violence to the south-east, which has a Kurdish majority.

But - perhaps helped by its warning that a hung parliament would cause chaos - the party won three million more votes than in June.

Earlier this month, 102 ­people were killed in Ankara, in a suicide bombing widely believed to have been perpetrated by terrorists linked to Isil.

Last night there were ­reports of people killed and at least 11 injured after an ­explosion in Nusaybin in ­Turkey's south, close to the border with Syria.

Ahead of June's election, the AKP and Mr Erdogan urged ­voters to give the party 367 seats for a supermajority to change the constitution and create a presidential system in Turkey.

It failed then, but although it is likely to fall short of a supermajority, it could put the changes to the public in a referendum with 330 seats.

It will be hoped in the West that Ankara will continue to be a strong partner fighting Isil and controlling the influx of refugees into Europe.

But there will be concerns the result will mean continued limitations on the press and more clashes between Kurdish rebels and the state.

Irish Independent

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