[QODLink]
Europe
Erdogan pledges 'constitution by consensus'
Turkish prime minister reaches out to opposition after winning half of votes but falling short of target of 330 seats.
Last Modified: 13 Jun 2011 13:43

Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Turkey's re-elected prime minister, has pledged to build a new constitution for the country by consensus after winning a third straight term in parliamentary elections.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) won nearly 50 per cent of the vote on Sunday, but came up just short of its target of 330 seats in the new parliament, which would have enabled it to draft a new constitution without consulting other parties.

In a victory speech before thousands of flag-waving supporters in the capital, Ankara, Erdogan pledged "humility" and said he would work with rivals.

Turkish elections: Full coverage

"People gave us a message to build the new constitution through consensus and negotiation," he said.

"We will discuss the new constitution with opposition parties. This new constitution will meet peace and justice demands."

Erdogan put his plans for constitutional change at the heart of his party's election campaign, arguing that a new one was needed to make Turkey more democratic and to enhance individual freedoms, replacing a document drafted under martial law in 1982.

But his opponents said Erdogan and his party, which mixes social conservatism with liberal economics, would use a dominant parliamentary majority to consolidate their own grip on power.

In the event, Erdogan's party finished with 49.9 per cent of the vote and 326 seats, while the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) increased its vote share to 25.9 per cent, winning 135 seats.

Stronger opposition

Turkey's ultra-nationalists, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), also entered parliament with 13 per cent of the vote and 53 seats. Thirty-six independent candidates, representing the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), were also elected. The number of female deputies in the parliament rose from 50 to 78.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the CHP, a secularist centre-left party, said the opposition had emerged stronger from the elections.

"We wish all success to AKP, but they must remember there's a stronger main opposition party now," Kilicdaroglu said.

Turkish parliament seat breakdown

Devlet Bahceli, whose MHP was tainted in the run-up to the vote by a sex-tapes scandal which it blamed on the AKP, also claimed success as it achieved the 10 per cent threshold necessary to enter parliament.

"Dirty propaganda to push our party below the threshold was carried out by large consensus led by the Justice and Development Party. Despite all these, the Turkish nation embraced the MHP and did not leave it alone," Bahceli was quoted by the Zaman newspaper as saying.

Cengiz Aktar, a columnist for the Turkish Daily News, told Al Jazeera that the electorate had delivered a clear message.

"Turkish voters were telling Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 'Look we would like to have a new legislature with an opposition. Go and talk to them to solve the burning issues of the country, ie. the new constitution and the Kurdish conflict.'

"So he has the initiative; either he goes that way, or he goes the way he was presenting to us during the campaign, that he will have his own agenda and apply it. In that case, we may have problems in Turkey."

Erdogan's third election success, following victories in 2002 and 2007, comes amid unprecedented prosperity under the AKP's stewardship and with Erdogan credited by many with raising the country's profile on the international stage.

'Turkey loves him!'

Many newspaper front pages paid glowing tribute to Erdogan's enduring popularity on Monday.

"Turkey loves him!" said Haber Turk.

Sabah said: "With every election, the AKP sets a new record."

European leaders also congratulated Erdogan on his victory.

"The results of the elections pave the way for continuation and strengthening of Turkey's democratic institutions as well as the modernisation of the country," Jose Manual Barroso, the president of the European Commission, and Herman Van Rompuy, the president of the European Council, said in a joint statement.


Columnist Semih Idiz explains path Erdogan is likely to chart

Erdogan came to power almost a decade ago on a pledge to take Turkey into the European Union and opened accession talks in 2005.

But those talks have stalled amid failure to find a resolution in Cyprus, while many Turks now question the attractiveness of membership, as Turkey's economy grows while neighbouring Greece and other EU members have succumbed to economic problems.

Turkey's influential business lobby, the TUSIAD, called on Erdogan's government to shape a new constitution through consensus.

"Our expectation from the new period is a Turkey which has achieved a new constitution through consensus and participation, which has moved closer to European Union membership, and which has guaranteed economic stability and reduced unemployment," the group said.

Turkey’s re-elected government also faces a worsening crisis on its southern frontier, where thousands have fled across the border to escape a crackdown in Syria, prompting Erdogan to condemn the Syrian government’s actions as "inhumane".

Ankara had previously enjoyed cordial relations with Damascus, with Erdogan calling Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president, a "personal friend".

But Marwan Bishara, Al Jazeera’s chief political analyst, said he expected to see a shift in tone from Ankara in the coming days.

"I spoke with foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu extensively this week about Turkey’s relations with the Arab world," said Bishara.

"I think we should expect that Turkey will make a major foreign policy stand or statement that will underline and clarify future Turkish policy with its neighbours, and make it clear that it stands with change and will not stand with those who are indifferent to, or resistant to, change in the Arab region."

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
Topics in this article
People
Country
City
Organisation
Featured on Al Jazeera
'Justice for All' demonstrations swell across the US over the deaths of African Americans in police encounters.
Six former Guantanamo detainees are now free in Uruguay with some hailing the decision to grant them asylum.
Disproportionately high number of Aboriginal people in prison highlights inequality and marginalisation, critics say.
Nearly half of Canadians have suffered inappropriate advances on the job - and the political arena is no exception.
Featured
Women's rights activists are demanding change after Hanna Lalango, 16, was gang-raped on a bus and left for dead.
Buried in Sweden's northern forest, Sorsele has welcomed many unaccompanied kids who help stabilise a town exodus.
A look at the changing face of North Korea, three years after the death of 'Dear Leader'.
While some fear a Muslim backlash after café killings, solidarity instead appears to be the order of the day.
Victims spared by the deadly disease are reporting blindness and other unexpected post-Ebola health issues.