Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory on behalf of his Islamist Justice and Development Party (AK) in municipal elections held Sunday. After almost all the ballots were counted, AK had 47% of the vote while the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) obtained only 27%. However, in Turkey’s capital Ankara, the poll remained close with AK ahead of CHP by 44% to 43%, with the CHP planning to contest the count.
After this weekend’s results Erdogan appears ready to contest the Presidential election in August. After nearly 12 years in power, he will not be allowed to seek a fourth term as prime minister. However, the president must leave his political party according to the Turkish constitution, leaving the future cohesion of AK in doubt before 2015 parliamentary elections.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan at a post election rally. (Photo: AFP)
Although Erdogan himself was not on the ballot this Sunday, Western analysts indicate that the vote was widely viewed as a referendum on his popularity. His administration has been facing corruption charges; several ministers were forced to resign in December, and recently released recordings appear to implicate the prime minister and his son in corrupt activities. Erdogan claims the recordings, on which he purportedly tells his son to dispose of a large amount of cash, are fake and he used them to justify a political crackdown against his opponents. Turkey saw a series of protests in the weeks leading up to the election and Erdogan responded to external pressures by severely curtailing internet freedoms; the government blocked both Twitter and YouTube earlier this month. The Prime Minister’s authoritarianism seems likely to continue following the election, with a “winner take all” mentality; after the election Erdogan vowed that his enemies would pay for opposing him.
Despite Erdogan’s reactionary policies against civil liberties, Turkey is currently the world’s 16th largest economy and international trade continues to grow. Despite the lack of political contact between them, Israel and Turkey are considering the creation of a gas pipeline to transport Mediterranean natural gas, helping limit Turkey’s energy needs from other Middle Eastern countries. But politicians and businessmen like question, will Turkey’s economic growth continue amid heightened political tensions and civil disobedience.