Turks endorse Erdogan’s plans

June 13, 2011

ISTANBUL – Initial results showed Turkey's ruling AK Party was on course for a solid victory in Sunday's parliamentary election to give Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan a third term, news channels said.

With 50 percent of the votes counted, Erdogan's AK had 53 percent and was set to win four more years of single-party rule in the nation that straddles Europe, the Middle East and Asia, Reuters reported.
The count showed the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) CHP holding 23 percent of the vote, and the third largest party, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 13.3 percent, broadcaster Haberturk said.
However, the votes counted up to Tehran Times’s press time came mainly from the eastern part of the country where the main opposition CHP is weak.
A Muslim democracy and candidate for the European Union, Turkey has become an economic powerhouse and influential player on the global stage since Erdogan's AK Party swept to power in 2002.
In the 2007 election the AK, a socially conservative party, took 46.5 percent of the vote.
Television projected the party would win 331 seats again this time, giving Erdogan the majority needed in parliament to call a referendum on a promised new constitution.
There is speculation that Erdogan will seek to move to Turkey toward a more presidential system of government, with an ultimate aim of becoming president himself.
Some opinion polls have predicted the AKP may hit the 50-percent mark, AFP reported.
The lingering question however was whether the party, in power since 2002, can secure an overwhelming parliamentary majority to press ahead with pledges to rewrite Turkey's constitution, the legacy of a 1980 coup.
Voting ended at 5:00 pm (1400 GMT) across the country, where more than 50 million people were eligible to vote, out of a population of some 73 million.
An ecstatic crowd burst into cheers and applause as Erdogan arrived to vote in a school in Istanbul's Uskudar district, an AKP stronghold.
""Turkey is proud of you,"" the crowd chanted, as the prime minister shook hands with supporters.
The AKP owes its enduring popularity mostly to economic success and improved public services following years of financial instability that haunted Turkey under shaky coalition governments in the past.
Under the AKP, the economy grew by 8.9 percent in 2010, outpacing global recovery, and per capita income has doubled to $10,079.
Violence marred voting at a polling station in Ankara, where opposition supporters attacked AKP members over an alleged attempt to sneak fake ballots papers into the building, Anatolia news agency reported.
Police fired shots in the air to end the melee and put the AKP members on a bus as enraged opposition supporters pelted the vehicle with stones, Anatolia said, adding that 14 people were detained.
In the mainly Kurdish city of Batman, police detained another 34 people on charges they threatened voters to support nationalist Kurdish candidates.
Erdogan has refused to say what the constitutional overhaul would entail and fanned speculation with his advocacy of a presidential system for Turkey -- presumably with himself at the helm.
The AKP needs at least 330 of the 550 seats to amend the constitution without support from other parties and put it to a referendum.
A two-thirds majority of 367 seats would enable the party to pass the amendments unilaterally.
Despite the sex tapes scandal, the MHP is expected to remain above the 10 percent threshold and enter parliament.
Kurdish-backed candidates running as independents to circumvent the threshold are expected to win up to 30 seats