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Friday, 15 November, 2002, 10:31 GMT
Q&A: How will the result change Turkey?

The Turkish election has been won by a new party with Islamist roots, the Justice and Development (AK) Party. BBC News Online asks what to expect.

Who is the new prime minister?

Abdullah Gul, a pro-Western economist, is the second-most important figure in the AK Party, after chairman Recep Tayyip Erdgoan,

Mr Gul was a member of Turkey's first Islamist government, which was forced out of office by the military five years ago.

However, he unlike traditionalists in the Islamist movement, he has always sought to co-operate with Turkey's secular establishment.

Mr Erdogan, is prevented from taking a seat in parliament, or becoming prime minister because he was convicted in 1998 of reciting a poem that the courts said incited religious hatred.

However, in the longer term it is possible that the parliament could amend the constitution to allow Mr Erdogan to take the job.

In January Mr Erdogan can also appeal against his political ban. If it is lifted, the AK Party can trigger by-elections, giving Mr Erdogan a chance to enter parliament and government.

Will the new government end the political crisis that beset Turkey in 2002?

Instead of a weak, unpopular coalition government suffering from chronic internal divisions, Turkey will now have a strong government with a solid mandate from voters.

However, crises of a different kind could emerge if the AK Party fails to gain the confidence of financial markets, or if it crosses swords with the military.

The party is also facing a legal challenge to its existence in the courts.

Will the AK Party introduce Islamic legislation?

It claims to be a modern, secular party, unlike its more traditional predecessor, the Virtue Party - though some Turks are sceptical.

Turkish analysts say the party is effectively a federation of centre-right forces, including an Islamist minority.

Mr Erdogan says freedom of speech and religious rights should be broadened in line with EU norms.

Currently Turkish women are banned from wearing headscarves in state buildings, and the AK Party has indicated that it might like to reverse this law.

"It's not good that a Turkish girl who wears a scarf cannot go to university in Turkey, but she can in London, Paris, Bonn or Washington," deputy leader Abdullah Gul told the BBC.

Does the AK Party support Turkey's IMF-backed economic reform package?

Yes, it does, though with some reservations. During the campaign it said it wished to make "some negotiated changes" in order to soften social hardships.

Mr Erdogan has said vaguely that he will respect agreements with the IMF while "safeguarding national interests".

After the vote he said his goal was integration of the Turkish economy with the world economy.

On the news of an AK victory, the stock market rose and the currency fell, then rebounded.

Does the AK Party want Turkey to join the EU?

Yes. In fact it says it wants to speed up Turkey's progress towards EU membership.

On his first foreign visit after the election, he announced a nine-point programme to accelerate reforms in the field of human rights, and to bring Turkey closer to satisfying the "political criteria" for EU membership.

These included of "zero tolerance" on torture.

EU diplomats say that Mr Erdogan has privately made conciliatory remarks about Cyprus.

Resolving the dispute that has left Cyprus divided since 1974 is now a priority for the EU, which hopes to conclude accession talks with the island by December.

Would an AK government help the US if there was a war against Iraq?

Many Turks are uneasy about the idea of a war against Iraq, especially one that makes use of Turkish military bases.

It is clear that some leaders of the AK party share this ambivalence, but correspondents say the party recognises the strong influence of the Turkish military leadership in such matters.

Mr Erdogan, like outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit, says he is against a war on Iraq unless it is approved by the United Nations.

"We do not want war, blood, tears and dead in our region," he has said. But he added: "We are obliged [to abide] by the United Nations' decisions."

What will the US make of the AK party's victory?

Washington is likely to have mixed feelings. Its first response, from Undersecretary of State Marc Grossman, seemed rather lukewarm.

He said simply that the US was "looking forward" to working with the new Turkish Government.

Some in the US, however, believe Mr Erdogan will show the world's Muslims that you can be both a good Muslim and believe in Western values.

Grenville Byford of Harvard University says it is essential to spread this message in the Islamic world, if the war against terror is to be won.

Turkey's election

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