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Erdogan warns enemies will pay price after poll

By Agencies in Ankara and Istanbul (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-01 07:21

Erdogan warns enemies will pay price after poll

Supporters of the ruling AK Party wave Turkish flags as they wait for the arrival of Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan at the party's headquarters in Ankara on Sunday. Erdogan was re-elected after a bitter campaign. Umit Bektas / Reuters

Turkish PM to fight accusations of intolerance after crackdown

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan declared victory in local polls that had become a referendum on his rule and said he will "enter the lair" of enemies who have accused him of corruption and leaked state secrets.

Erdogan, 60, fighting the biggest challenge of his 12-year rule, addressed supporters from a balcony at his Justice and Development Party headquarters at the end of a long and bitter election campaign in which he had labeled his opponents "terrorists" and an "alliance of evil".

The harsh tone of his balcony address suggested he felt he now had a mandate for strong action against his enemies. "From tomorrow, there may be some who flee," he said.

The election campaign has been dominated by a power struggle between Erdogan and a US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom Erdogan accuses of using a network of followers in the police and judiciary to fabricate graft accusations in an effort to topple him. Erdogan has purged thousands of police and hundreds of judges and prosecutors since anti-graft raids in December that targeted businessmen close to him and sons of ministers.

Erdogan warns enemies will pay price after poll

"We will enter their lair," he said. "They will pay the price, they will be brought to account. How can you threaten national security?"

At the end of last week, the crisis reached a new level when a recording of a top-secret meeting of security officials about possible intervention in Syria was posted anonymously on YouTube. The action, for which Gulen denies any responsibility, raised serious concern about government control of its own security apparatus and fears of further damaging leaks.

Under Erdogan, NATO member Turkey was long held up as a model for a Muslim democracy, and indeed, the prime minister carried out many reforms that improved human rights and drove the economy. But since a crackdown on anti-government protests last June, he has been accused of intolerance.

With about 98 percent of votes counted by early on Monday morning, AKP, in power since 2002, had 45.6 percent of the vote, with the opposition Republican People's Party trailing with 28 percent, according to Turkish television. If borne out, the result would be at the upper end of what Erdogan might have expected, although the race for Ankara was going down to the line.

The CHP, Erdogan said, must look at itself in the mirror.

"The old Turkey is no longer. The new Turkey is here," he said, to cheers from supporters who shouted "Allahu Akbar" (God is greatest) and "Turkey is proud of you". "Today is the victory day of the new Turkey, 77 million united ... as brothers."

Erdogan, lacking his own trained personnel, filled government departments with Gulen supporters when he was first elected in 2002. Gulen, who runs a huge network of schools and businesses, is widely credited with having helped him break the army's political power using his people in police and judiciary.

But in recent years, friction has grown between the two men and came to a head when Erdogan moved to curb Gulen's influence and close the schools that are a key source of income and influence.

Erdogan seems likely now to step up his drive against the followers of Gulen, who denies any wrongdoing. Criminal investigations and arrests could follow, especially after Thursday's leak of the meeting between spymaster Hakan Fidan, a close Erdogan confidante, and military and civilian chiefs.

"Let me tell you, Erdogan's response is coming," said Tesev think-tank chairman Can Paker, seen as close to Erdogan.

"He will harshly and fully clean up the police and judiciary. And he will purge the press that supported the leaks. He will most certainly do that. He will say, 'I was elected to eliminate them.' He is not going to soften."

Reuters - AFP


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