Erdogan, fighting the biggest challenge of his 12-year rule,
addressed supporters from a balcony at AKP headquarters at the end
of a long and bitter election campaign in which he has labeled 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 U.S.-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 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?"
The turbulence has unnerved investors, driving the lira currency to
a record low in January and prompting losses in stocks of some 8.6
percent since late last year. The strong AKP showing, signaling
political continuity, calmed nerves however on Monday and the lira
hit a two-month high.
"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 and indeed the prime minister carried out many
reforms that eased human rights and drove the economy. But since a
crackdown on anti-government protests last June he has been accused
With about 98 percent of votes counted by early on Monday morning,
AKP, in power since 2002, had 45.6 percent of the vote, the
opposition CHP trailing with 28 percent, according to Turkish
television. If borne out, the result would be at 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, who runs a huge network of schools and businesses, is widely
credited with having helped him break the army's political power
using his people in police and judiciary.
But in recent years 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 sort of income and influence.
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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 Tesev think-tank chairman Can Paker, 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."
BLOW TO OPPOSITION
The strong showing could embolden Erdogan to run in what will be the
first popular election for the presidency in August. In doing so, he
would take over a role that has been largely ceremonial, but with
the aim of extending its powers.
There would be some risks involved. Erdogan has described audio
recordings anonymously posted on the Internet implicating him in
corruption as "montage", a manipulation. But he must reckon with
further such postings in the run-up to the presidential race.
His government has blocked access to both the social networking site
Twitter and YouTube in moves condemned by Western governments and
He could also choose to run for a fourth term as prime minister in
parliamentary elections next year.
Sunday's results will come as a bitter blow to the CHP.
"It's already clear from his speech this evening that he's basically
threatening society," said Gursel Tekin, CHP Vice President. "This
shows his state of mind isn't to be trusted, and these obvious
threats are not something that we can accept."
Erdogan formed AK in 2001, drawing nationalists and center-right
economic reformers as well as religious conservatives who form his
base. Since his 2011 poll victory he has moved more towards these
core religious supporters he sees as having been "looked down upon"
over generations by an urban secular elite.
Whatever the scale of Erdogan's victory, he will awake on Monday to
a huge task in restoring control over the security apparatus of the
country. Even in purging members of the police force he considers
unreliable, he cannot be sure that the replacements he brings in are
(Additional reporting by Seda Sezer, Alexandra Hudson, Daren Butler
and Ayla Jean Yackley, editing by Nick Tattersall)
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