Turkey president urges respect for his party’s election win
ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday hailed a big victory for his ruling party in the country’s parliamentary election and demanded the world respect the result.
The ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, secured a stunning victory in Sunday’s snap parliamentary election, sweeping back into single-party rule only five months after losing it.
With all of the ballots counted early on Monday, the preliminary results showed that the party won more than 49 percent of the votes. It was projected to get 317 seats in the 550-member parliament, restoring the party’s single-party majority that it had lost in a June election.
Turkish financial assets were buoyant Monday after the AKP’s victory as investors hoped it will bring an end to a long period of political uncertainty. The Turkish lira was one big beneficiary from the result, surging by 5 percent or so on foreign exchange markets.
“The whole world must show respect. So far I haven’t seen such a maturity from the world,” Erdogan said after attending prayers at a mosque and visiting his parents’ graves.
It was an apparent reference to Western media’s often critical coverage of AKP’s policies in the past few years, including the ruling party’s backsliding on democratic reforms and moves to muzzle critical voices.
International election observers on Monday noted that elections were free and peaceful but criticized media restrictions in the run-up to the vote, including the seizure by the government of an opposition media company and criminal investigations of journalists for allegedly supporting terrorism or defaming Erdogan. The observers said the incidents of violence as well as physical attacks on party officials had hindered many of the contestants’ ability to campaign freely.
“Unfortunately we came to the conclusion that this campaign was unfair and was characterized by too much violence and by too much fear,” Andreas Gross, who headed a delegation of parliamentarians from the Council of Europe, told a news conference in Ankara.
There were no allegations of large-scale fraud.
Any hope that Erdogan would ease media repression evaporated on Monday after a court ordered police to seize all copies of a weekly political magazine for suggesting on its front page that the aftermath of the election would mark the start of a civil war in the country. Nokta magazine said on its website that its chief editor and a manager were expected to be questioned for allegedly inciting people to violence.
Erdogan had called for a new election after Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu failed to form a coalition with any of the three opposition parties in parliament after the June vote.
Sunday’s election was held amid renewed violence and Erdogan and Davutoglu argued that only a single-party majority could restore stability.
Fighting between Turkey’s security forces and Kurdish rebels has left hundreds of people dead and shattered an already-fragile peace process. Two recent massive suicide bombings at pro-Kurdish gatherings that killed some 130 people, apparently carried out by an Islamic State group cell, also raised tensions.
“The will of the people ... opted for stability,” Erdogan said. “The developments in that short span of time made the people say: ‘there is no way out other than stability.’”
Most analysts had expected AKP to fall short of a majority again, but the preliminary results suggest it picked up millions of votes at the expense of a nationalist party and a pro-Kurdish party.
On Monday, the European Union’s chief diplomat Federica Mogherini and EU Commissioner Johannes Hahn issued a joint statement praising the strong voter turnout of more than 85 percent as a sign of the Turkish people’s commitment to democracy. They said the 28-nation group would work with the new government to advance ties.
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Elizabeth Trudeau said in Washington that “we congratulate the people of Turkey on their participation in yesterday’s parliamentary election. The United States looks forward to working with the newly elected parliament, and with the future government.”
Trudeau also reiterated U.S. concerns “that media outlets and individual journalists critical of the government were subject to pressure and intimidation during the campaign, seemingly in a manner calculated to weaken political opposition.”
In Germany, a spokesman for Chancellor Angela Merkel said it was now important for Turkey to tackle challenges including fighting IS militants, solving the Kurdish conflict and overcoming polarization “in the spirit of national unity and readiness to compromise.”
The lira’s recovery Monday came following a bad year. As well as suffering from the fallout of the previous election, the lira has been hit by expectations the U.S. Federal Reserve will soon raise interest rates. That will ratchet up the costs for Turkish companies, many of whom have borrowed in dollars to fund their expansion. It could also see an outflow of funds from Turkey as the prospect of higher U.S. interest rates encourages investors from around the world to reduce their exposure to emerging markets in favor of improving returns in the U.S.
As a result, analysts were careful not to get too carried away by Sunday’s election result as the fundamentals haven’t changed.
“This rally should not blind us to the underlying issues in Turkey, such as the continued current account deficit which is causing underlying pressure on the currency as the market continues to fear the first Fed rate hike,” said Simon Smith, chief economist at FxPro.
Another worry in markets centers on whether President Erdogan will use the opportunity offered by his party’s surprisingly big election victory to push for greater powers.
According to Derek Halpenny of Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ, any aggressive move by Erdogan on that front “could unsettle investors.”
He said that the AKP has also been well-known to interfere with central bank decision making, one of the factors behind the lira’s recent slump.
“The strong gains we see for the lira are unlikely to be repeated going forward,” he said.
Pan Pylas in London and Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.