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In an election considered crucial to the future of Turkey, 80% of the nation’s voters went to the polls and re-elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) to a second five-year term. Gaining 47% of the vote—12 percentage points above the party’s 2002 election win—Mr. Erdogan promises to steer the nation to further democratic reforms, in hope these will eventually lead to membership into the European Union.
The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party, along with the Turkish army, has criticized the AKP for its deep Islamic roots. Pro-secularists fear Mr. Erdogan and his supporters will push an Islamist agenda and infringe upon citizens’ freedoms.
Mr. Erdogan called for parliamentary elections four months early in order to break a stalemate caused last spring when the prime minister announced Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, who has a background in Islamic politics, as his presidential nominee. This ignited widespread pro-secularist protests, with hundreds of thousands of demonstrators taking to the streets.
To ease tensions at that time, the Turkish high court had called off the elections, deeming them unconstitutional because too few parties were involved.
Just before the election, former diplomat Sinan Ulgen, now a political and economic consultant, stated, “This election will determine whether Turkey wants to continue on its liberal path—opening itself up further and intensifying its relationship to Europe and the West—or whether it will become more nationalistic and introverted” (Der Spiegel).
Turkey’s voters appear to have chosen the former.