Turkey's Erdogan starts race for new government

The newly elected president vowed to exercise the full powers granted to the presidency under current laws

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Turkey’s ruling party begins deliberations on the shape of the next government on Monday after Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan secured his place in history by winning the nation’s first direct presidential election.

Erdogan’s victory in Sunday’s vote takes him a step closer to the executive presidency he has long coveted for Turkey. But it is an outcome which his opponents fear will herald an increasingly authoritarian rule.

Profile infographic: Turkey's President Erdogan

Profile infographic: President Tayyip Erdogan
Profile infographic: President Tayyip Erdogan

In the coming weeks, Erdogan will for the last time chair meetings of the ruling AK Party he founded and oversee the selection of a new party leader, likely to be a staunch loyalist and his future prime minister.

He will be inaugurated on Aug. 28.

“Today is a new day, a milestone for Turkey, the birthday of Turkey, of its rebirth from the ashes,” Erdogan, 60, told thousands of supporters in a victory speech from the balcony of the AK Party headquarters in Ankara late on Sunday.

Supporters honking car horns and waving flags took to the streets in Ankara after results on Turkish television said Erdogan, the prime minister for more than a decade, had won 52 percent of the vote.

The celebratory mood filled the front pages of pro-government newspapers.

“The People’s Revolution”, said a banner headline in the Aksam daily above a picture of Erdogan waving to the crowds overnight. Other headlines spelled out: “Erdogan’s historic triumph”, “The People’s President”.

Investors initially welcomed the result on hopes that it would ensure political stability, after nearly 12 years of AK Party rule. The lira rallied to 2.1385 against the dollar from 2.1601 late on Friday.

However, some said the market reaction could be short-lived.

“We expect the market will refocus on the composition of the cabinet,” said Phoenix Kalen, a London-based strategist at Societe Generale, warning there could be “investor concern over the future trajectory of economic policy-making”.

It was a narrower margin of victory than polls had suggested but still 13 points more than Erdogan’s closest rival, and comfortable enough to avoid the need for a second round runoff.

The chairman of the High Election Board confirmed Erdogan had a majority, with more than 99 percent of votes counted, and said full provisional figures would be released later on Monday.

Erdogan has vowed to exercise the full powers granted to the presidency under current laws, unlike predecessors who played a mainly ceremonial role. But he has made no secret of his plans to change the constitution and forge an executive presidency.

“I want to underline that I will be the president of all 77 million people, not only those who voted for me. I will be a president who works for the flag, for the country, for the people,” he said in his victory speech.

The electoral map suggested that might not be easy.

While the expanses of the conservative Anatolian heartlands voted overwhelmingly for Erdogan, the more liberal western Aegean and Mediterranean coastal fringe was dominated by main opposition candidate Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and the southeastern corner by Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas.

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