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Monday, 4 November, 2002, 20:51 GMT
Turkey on verge of new era
AK supporters outside the party headquarters
The AK will have a clear majority in parliament
The Islamist-based Justice and Development Party (AK) has won a crushing victory in Turkey's general elections, paving the way for single-party rule for the first time in 15 years.

The recently-founded AK has begun the task of forming a new government after securing a clear majority in parliament with 34.2% of the vote.

But the party faces a battle on several fronts for acceptance within the political establishment.

A prosecutor is seeking to ban AK on the grounds that its leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is a former convict and therefore not eligible to be leader.

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

Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Erdogan: Stemming secular fears
AK will also be under close scrutiny from the army, regarded as the guarantor of Turkey's secular constitution.

The election result will be an issue when the head of Turkish military, General Hilmi Ozkok, arrives in Washington for talks later on Monday.

World reaction to the result has been muted. US Under-Secretary of State Marc Grossman said Washington "looked forward to working with the new government".

The European Union was cautious, encouraging Ankara to implement reforms required before negotiations on EU membership can begin.

In contrast, the prime minister of Turkey's old rival Greece, Costas Simitis, was the first foreign leader to congratulate Mr Erdogan, who in turn said he was planning to visit Athens within the next seven to 10 days.

'No forced Islam'

Outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit handed in his resignation to President Ahmet Necdet Sezer on Monday afternoon, but was asked to continue as a caretaker until a new government was in place.

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

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

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

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

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

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.

Large majority

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

Bulent Ecevit casts his ballot
Bulent Ecevit will continue as caretaker prime minister
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 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.

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.

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%

He 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.

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
"Most Turks are simply desperate for change"
Dr Murat Mercan, AK party spokesman:
"He has to be accredited the victory"
Turkey's election

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04 Nov 02 | Business
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