Triumphant Erdogan Pledges “New Era” for Turkey
Having won Turkey’s first direct presidential elections, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday pledged a "new era" for the country.
With almost all ballots of Sunday’s vote counted, Erdogan had won 51.74 percent, ahead of Organization for Islamic Cooperation (OIC) ex-Chair Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu with 38.46 percent, which made a run-off vote unnecessary. Kurdish challenger Selahattin Demirtas won 9.80 percent.
Voter turnout was 73.68%, a figure considered high for a presidential vote in many countries. With Turks electing their president directly for the first time in the country's history, the vote has been seen as a milestone in Turkish politics, bringing the office a new legitimacy.
"Today is a new day, a milestone for Turkey, the birthday of Turkey, of its rebirth from the ashes," Reuters quoted triumphant Erdogan as telling a rally of tens of thousands of supporters in Ankara.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics since 2002, promised to be president of all of Turkey’s 77 million people, not just those who had voted for him, and a president who will work “for the flag, for the country, for the people.”
In its coverage of the news of Erdogan’s victory Reuters highlighted that markets are likely to take it “as a sign of continuity, at least in the short term” following the prime minister’s success in overseeing a “decade of growth and stability after a long period of economic chaos and political drift in Turkey”.
During his tenure as prime minister he has sought to boost Turkey’s position in international politics and modernise the country. Large-scale infrastructure projects including a new canal for ships and a third airport in Istanbul and a high-speed rail network for entire Turkey were planned during Erdogan’s tenure as prime minister.
He could now serve two five year presidential terms, staying in power until 2024.
According to AFP, with inauguration for president set for August 28, Erdogan’s attention now will focus on who becomes Turkey’s next prime minister to take the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) into parliamentary elections next year.
Under Turkey’s constitution, as President Erdogan will have to break with the AKP he founded.
Commenting on possible choices for prime minister, Reuters said that according to senior AKP officials foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu is the top pick to succeed Erdogan. Davutoglu, Erdogan's right-hand man internationally, enjoys strong support within the AKP bureaucracy but ex-transport minister Binali Yildirim “is also trying to position himself for the job.”
The AKP has said it will move to seek amendments to the constitution after the 2015 elections to increase the powers of the head of state. Creating an executive presidency, however, will require either a popular vote or a two-thirds majority in parliament, which makes it vital for Erdogan to have a loyal premier to be able to push through changes to the constitution, AFP commented.
Al Jazeera quoted Koray Caliskan, a professor at Istanbul's Bogazici University, as commenting that in the future “[…]Turkey will look more and more similar to Putin's Russia. [Erdogan] will use all his presidential powers to tighten his grip on the country.”
Challenges facing Erdogan include recent signs of weakness in the economy, whose success has been at the heart of his political popularity. Growth, fueled by consumption and private-sector borrowing, has widened the current-account gap to 7.5% of GDP in H1 2014, increasing the vulnerability of Turkey’s economy to a withdrawal of foreign investment needed to finance the deficit.
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