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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 14:19 GMT
Turkey's old guard routed in elections
AK supporters outside the party headquarters
Ousting the political elite - the AK is just one year old
The Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AK) has won a crushing victory in Turkey's general elections, enabling it to end 15 years of coalition government.

Official results
AK (Justice and Development Party): 34.2 %
Republican People's Party (CHP): 19.3%
True Path Party: 9.5%
Nationalist Action Party (MHP): 8.3%
The recently-founded AK party secured a clear majority in parliament with 34.2% of the vote, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported.

It was one of only two parties to cross the 10% threshold required to enter parliament.

The staunchly secular Republican People's Party was the only other party to win representation, with 19.3% of the vote, giving it 178 seats.

AK leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan has insisted that his party stands for democratic freedoms and human rights and will not impose Islam on anyone.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan: Stemming secular fears
He has also pledged to make the country's institutions work better and to speed up Turkey's drive to join the European Union.

"Our most urgent issue is the EU and I will send my colleagues to Europe without waiting to receive the mandate," he said. "We have no time to lose."

Many of Mr Erdogan's supporters, however, want the party to stay true to its Islamist roots.

The BBC's Nick Thorpe in Ankara says the AK victory has great significance for the region, with the threat of war hanging over Iraq on Turkey's eastern border.

Asked about the possibility of a war with Iraq. Mr Erdogan told Turkish television: "We do not want blood, tears and death."

From 4 November those people who have been expecting work, meat and bread will start to see a solution

AK leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan
The AK party will have 363 of the 550 seats in parliament - just four seats short of the two-thirds needed to change the constitution, but enough to form the next government on its own.

It is not yet clear how the new government will take shape, as Mr Erdogan is banned from holding public office in Turkey and must find a suitable candidate for prime minister from the top ranks of his party.

Economic crisis

Mr Erdogan's success came amid widespread anger at the government, whom many Turks blame for the economic crisis of the past two years.

Turkey is hoping to be given a firm date in December for the start of talks on EU membership - although correspondents say that is far from certain.

Turkey's outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit accepted defeat, after none of the three ruling coalition parties managed to cross the 10% threshold.

Turkish television said he would tender his resignation at 1630 (1430 gmt) on Monday.

Mr Ecevit - whose Democratic Left Party won only 1.2% of the vote - expressed fears that the AK party could threaten Turkey's secular constitutional order.

"I hope this party respects the secular and democratic regime," he said.

Former Turkish Prime Minister Tansu Ciller, leader of the centre-right True Path Party, also announced on Monday that she planned to step down following the party's poor election performance.

'Different era'

The army - seen as the guarantor of the secular system - will also be watching the AK's next moves closely.

Bulent Ecevit casts his ballot
Bulent Ecevit's illness was a trigger for early elections

Speaking to reporters on election night, Mr Erdogan promised a "more meaningful and different era in terms of basic rights and freedoms".

"Starting from 4 November, those people who have been expecting work, meat and bread will start to see a solution," he said.

He also warned of the need to re-examine the International Monetary Fund's plans for the Turkish economy.

Turkey's financial markets welcomed the AK victory, with stocks surging and the currency recovering about 1% against the dollar compared with Friday's rate.

Erdogan court battle

Mr Erdogan's own future will be decided at a hearing of the constitutional court in two weeks' time.

The state prosecutor tried to ban Mr Erdogan from campaigning as party leader on the grounds that an earlier conviction for inciting religious hatred meant that he should have stepped down from his party posts.

However, Mr Erdogan spearheaded AK's campaign, despite the fact that he may not be able to become prime minister.

Elections were called 18 months early after the coalition government collapsed due to bitter in-fighting and Mr Ecevit's prolonged illness.

The BBC's James Robbins
"Turkey has huge strategic importance"
Andrew Mango, writer on Turkish affairs
"The party has been elected on a protest vote"
Deputy leader of AKP, Abdullah Gul
"We are a conservative party"
Turkey's election

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04 Nov 02 | Business
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