Thursday, 23rd October 2014

Turkey's Erdogan wins elections yet political uncertainty lingers


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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Sunday's presidential elections with as many votes as a little over a simple majority, avoiding a run-off round and scooping up an election victory.

Yet an atmosphere of political uncertainty looms large as fresh controversy has erupted over Erdogan's term and party-links and concerns raised about who will control the government and the ruling party after Erdogan's departure.

According to provisional results announced on Monday by Turkey' s election commission, Erdogan secured 51.8 percent of votes while his main rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu was able to get 38.4 percent of votes. The third candidate Selahattin Demirtas got 9.8 percent.

In his victory speech on late Sunday night, Erdogan's tone seemed conciliatory, a sharp contrast to the harsh discourse he used during the election campaign, promising to embrace all of Turkey's diverse factions.

"I want to underline that I will be the president of all 77 million people, not only those who voted for me," he noted.
But the opposition fears Erdogan will tighten his grip around NATO member Turkey by promoting an authoritarian rule and remains skeptical about his true intentions.

The main opposition group, the Republican Peoples' Party deputy chairman and spokesperson, said on Monday that the party will take a position according to Erdogan's actions.

"After elections, the future of Turkish people is under threat from one-man regime," he said, stressing that the party will fight against Erdogan should he decide to switch Turkey's regime from parliamentary democracy to president-centered one.
Analysts have also expressed concerns over increasing polarization in Turkish politics with Erdogan's transition to presidential office.

"Erdogan said on many occasions that he will exercise all his presidential powers. Now that he was elected, the concern is that he may trigger a constitutional crisis among separate branches of the government when he decides to control the government," Idris Gursoy, a political analyst, told Xinhua.

"That means we'll see clashes among state institutions, raising the political uncertainty further," he added.

The Turkish constitution, drafted after the 1980 military coup, allows president to chair the cabinet meetings, although it was rarely exercised by past presidents who wanted to project a state leader above politics.

Erdogan has said before the elections that he will lead the cabinet meetings, statements that reflect he intends to change the president's routine role in Turkey.

ACCUSATIONS MAR ERDOGAN'S VICTORY

After ruling the country as the head of government for three consecutive terms, Erdogan was hailed as the leader who turned the country's economic performance into a story of success. He is also remembered for reducing the role of the military in politics.

But his reputation suffered greatly in 2013 when mass anti- government rallies during Gezi protests tarnished his image of a reformist leader. The harsh crackdown on protesters who rose up against Erdogan's environmental policies received much rebuke from the opposition and Turkey's allies.

Later a corruption investigation, which surfaced in Dec. 2013, also implicated senior officials in government and Erdogan's family members. He was accused of suspending the rule of law to hush-up corruption allegations.

Deputy of the opposition Nationalist Movement Party, Cemalettin Simsek, said Erdogan desperately wanted to become president to escape from corruption allegations.

According to Turkish penal code, the president of the country can only be tried for a crime of treason. He has full immunities against other incriminations.

"He (Erdogan) sees the presidency as a protective armor," Simsek said.

CONTROVERSY OVER PARTY TIES

Former Justice Minister Hikmet Sami Turk says that now that Erdogan is officially president, he should sever ties with his party.

"It would be wrong for him both in terms of law, politics and ethics to interfere in the selection of the new prime minister and party leader," Turk said.

Article 101 of the Turkish Constitution states that once a person is elected president, his or her ties to their party, and their membership in Parliament, should discontinue.

Serap Yazici, a professor of constitutional law, says Erdogan's aspiration to shape the governing party and the government before assuming presidency is not lawful, saying that "he should no longer act like the leader of a political party."

Meanwhile, some analysts and observers have speculated that outgoing President Abdullah Gul may become a new rival for Erdogan in the race to gain party influence.

Gul said on Monday that he would return to politics and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"I am still president until end of the month. No doubt that I will return to my party as my presidency ends. This is only natural for me," Gul told reporters at a farewell reception at the presidency, a signal that he will pursue the post of next prime minister.

"After founding our party, I was the first prime minister and then first president. I am happy that my party brings out the second-president," he added.

His remarks came at a time when the AKP's highest decision- making body was discussing Erdogan's successor and party's road map for electing a new chairman, who will also be the next prime minister. A ruling party official told Xinhua on the condition of anonymity that "Erdogan wants to control both presidency and the government ... yet Gul, supported by other heavyweights in the party, wants to challenge that ambition of Erdogan." ANKARA, Aug 11 (Xinhua)


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