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    Monday, 25 June 2018

    Turkey's Erdogan emerges victorious, setting him up for tighter grip on power

    Erdogan, 64, and his ruling AK Party on Sunday claimed victory in presidential and parliamentary polls, overcoming a revitalised opposition that in recent weeks had gained considerable momentum and looked capable of staging an upset.He took 52.5 per cent of the vote in the presidential race, with more than 99 per cent of the votes counted. His AK Party took 42.5 per cent in the parliamentary polls, and was boosted by its nationalist allies, which outstripped expectations and took 11.1 per cent.
    The lira, which has lost some 20 per cent of its value this year, rallied overnight as far as 4.5870 against the dollar before surrendering much of its gains to trade at 4.6350 at 0432 GMT. It closed at 4.6625 on Friday.
    The opposition had said late on Sunday it was still too early to concede defeat. The main opposition’s candidate, the combative former teacher Muharrem Ince, took nearly 31 percent. Erdogan has repeatedly cast his opponents as enemies of democracy, tapping into the groundswell of nationalist feeling that followed a failed coup in 2016.
    “It is out of the question for us to turn back from where we’ve brought our country in terms of democracy and the economy,” he said on Sunday. “There is no stopping for us until we bring Turkey, which we saved from plotters, coupists and political and economic hitmen, street gangs and terrorist organisations, to among the top 10 economies in the world.”The vote ushers in the powerful, new executive presidency backed by a narrow majority in a 2017 referendum. Critics have said it will further erode democracy and entrench one-man rule.
    A masterful campaigner, Erdogan has overseen years of strong economic growth and won the loyalty of millions of pious, working class Turks for delivering schools, hospitals and infrastructure.
    But he has also launched a widening crackdown against opponents, that has seen some 160,000 people jailed and media outlets shut down.
    Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan won sweeping new executive powers on Monday after his victory in landmark elections that also saw his Islamist-rooted AK Party and its nationalist allies secure a majority in parliament.
    Erdogan’s main rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), conceded defeat but branded the elections “unjust” and said the presidential system that now takes effect was “very dangerous” because it would lead to one-man rule.
    Erdogan, 64, the most popular - yet divisive - leader in modern Turkish history, told jubilant, flag-waving supporters there would be no retreat from his drive to transform Turkey, a NATO member and, at least nominally, a candidate to join the European Union.
    He is loved by millions of devoutly Muslim working class Turks for delivering years of stellar economic growth and overseeing the construction of roads, bridges, airports, hospitals and schools.
    But his critics, including human rights groups, accuse him of destroying the independence of the courts and media freedoms. A crackdown launched after a failed 2016 coup has seen 160,000 people including teachers, journalists and judges detained.
    Erdogan and the AK Party claimed victory in Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections after defeating a revitalized opposition that had gained considerable momentum recently and looked capable of staging an upset.
    “It is out of the question for us to turn back from where we’ve brought our country in terms of democracy and the economy,” Erdogan said on Sunday night.
    With virtually all votes counted, Erdogan had 53 percent against Ince’s 31 percent, while in the parliamentary vote the AKP took 42.5 percent and its MHP nationalist allies secured 11 percent, outstripping expectations.
    Voter turnout was high, at nearly 87 percent. The High Election Board (YSK) declared the elections “healthy”.
    Turkish markets initially rallied on hopes of increased political stability - investors had feared deadlock between Erdogan and an opposition-controlled parliament - but then retreated amid concerns over future monetary policy.
    The vote ushers in a powerful executive presidency backed by a narrow majority in a 2017 referendum. The office of prime minister will be abolished and Erdogan will be able to issue decrees to form and regulate ministries and remove civil servants, all without parliamentary approval.
    “The new regime that takes effect from today is a major danger for Turkey... We have now fully adopted a regime of one-man rule,” Ince told a news conference.
    His secularist CHP won 23 percent in the new parliament and the pro-Kurdish HDP nearly 12 percent, above the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.
    Critics say that campaigning took place under deeply unfair conditions, with Erdogan dominating media coverage in the run-up to the vote, and his opponents getting little air time.
    The HDP’s presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, campaigned from a prison cell, where he is detained on terrorism charges he denies. He faces 142 years in prison if convicted.
    The elections were held under the state of emergency imposed shortly after the 2016 coup, in which at least 240 people were killed. Erdogan has said he will soon lift the emergency.
    The MHP takes a hard line on the Kurds, making it less likely that Erdogan will soften his approach to security issues in mainly Kurdish southeast Turkey and neighboring Syria and Iraq, where Turkish forces are battling Kurdish militants.
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    Item Reviewed: Turkey's Erdogan emerges victorious, setting him up for tighter grip on power Rating: 5 Reviewed By: Asqamar