Di­vi­sive Er­do­gan to be­come Turk­ish pres­i­dent

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Out­go­ing Turk­ish prime min­is­ter Re­cep Tayyip Er­do­gan will be­come the coun­try’s first di­rectly elected pres­i­dent af­ter se­cur­ing a de­ci­sive vic­tory in Sun­day’s poll.

State-run Anadolu news agency said that Er­do­gan got 52% of the vote, with his main ri­vals Ek­meled­din Ih­sanoglu, a for­mer diplo­mat, and Kur­dish politi­cian Se­la­hat­tin Demir­tas, tak­ing 38% and 10%, re­spec­tively.

By claim­ing an ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity, Er­do­gan avoided a sec­ond run-off elec­tion against Ih­sanoglu as the re­sults were for­mally con­firmed on Mon­day.

In a vic­tory speech to thou­sands of sup­port­ers out­side his Jus­tice and Devel­op­ment Party’s (AKP) head­quar­ters on Sun­day night, Er­do­gan said: “I will not be the pres­i­dent of only those who voted for me, I will be the pres­i­dent of 77 mil­lion.”

He also promised to “build a new un­der­stand­ing of a so­ci­etal rec­on­cil­i­a­tion”.

The 60-year old Er­do­gan has been prime min­is­ter since 2003 and was barred from stand­ing for a fourth term by in­ter­nal party rules.

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But de­spite be­ing the coun­try’s long­est serv­ing leader, Er­do­gan is seen by many as a di­vi­sive fig­ure whose pre­mier­ship has left Turkey in­creas­ingly iso­lated and set back its chances of progress in EU mem­ber­ship talks.

His crit­ics say that his govern­ment and lead­er­ship style have be­come in­creas­ingly au­thor­i­tar­ian, marked by crack­downs on press and ju­di­cial free­dom as well as bans on the use of so­cial me­dia sites Twit­ter and YouTube.

Ear­lier this year, the US think­tank Free­dom House down­graded Turk­ish press sta­tus from “partly free” to “not free” in its yearly re­port, putting the coun­try in the same bracket as the likes of Zim­babwe and So­ma­lia.

Mean­while, a new in­ter­net law, de­nounced by EU officials, is set to give the AKP govern­ment the right to delete on­line con­tent, block in­di­vid­ual users and snoop on peo­ple’s emails.

Er­do­gan also faced in­ter­na­tional crit­i­cism af­ter us­ing po­lice vi­o­lence to break up pro-democ­racy protests in Is­tan­bul last year.

How­ever, de­spite this, his pop­u­lar­ity among mil­lions of Turks re­mained undimmed, with the AKP eas­ily win­ning lo­cal elec­tions in March just months af­ter a govern­ment cor­rup­tion scandal.

The Turk­ish pres­i­dency had pre­vi­ously been de­cided by par­lia­ment. But a ref­er­en­dum in 2010 in­tro­duced di­rect elec­tions for the head of state, which has, un­til now, been a largely cer­e­mo­nial post.

Er­do­gan has promised to be “an ac­tive pres­i­dent” and that he will use “the full ex­tent of his con­sti­tu­tional pow­ers” in the process, lead­ing some to sus­pect that he will seek to strengthen his grip on power when he takes of­fice at the end of Au­gust.

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