Turkey’s ruling party wins parliamentary elections

By RIA Novosti

Ankara : Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AK Party) has retained power with a convincing victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections, despite opposition from secularist President Ahmet Necdet Sezer and the army for what they call its Islamist agenda.

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Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, 53, who has overseen strong economic growth and enjoys wide popularity in the country of 70 million, told a crowd of supporters outside the party headquarters in Ankara that he would press on with economic reforms and the country's bid to join the European Union.

"We share a common goal – to turn Turkey into a powerful and flourishing state – and we will pursue this goal with every step," the premier said.

Erdogan, a Sunni Muslim, gave reassurances that his party would not undermine Turkey's secular system.

"We will make no compromises in protecting the fundamental values of secular and democratic Turkey," he said.

With all ballots counted, the RK Party garnered 46.7 percent of votes, well ahead of the secularist opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), with 20 percent. The compulsory voting system ensured a turnout of 80 percent.

The elections were called after the opposition blocked the premier-backed candidate for the post of president in April elections, as well as government reforms aimed at scrapping the nomination system for the presidency, and switching to presidential elections.

Most Turkish media consider the result to be a signal that the electorate is unhappy with political interference from the military, and wants to push on with democratic reforms. Three months ago, the army's chief of staff warned that he would intervene in politics if Islamic elements in the government were to jeopardize the country's secular system.

The ruling party is expected to receive 340 seats in the 550-seat legislature. Erdogan has been in power since 2002, when he won parliamentary polls with 34.3 percent of votes.