Erdogan tells opponents they "will pay" after Turkish election victory

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Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan addresses to the crowd from the balcony of Justice and Development Party headquarters in Ankara, Turkey on March 31, 2014. (Photo: AFP - Adem Altan)

Published Monday, March 31, 2014

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

Erdogan, fighting the biggest challenge of his 12-year rule, addressed supporters from a balcony at AKP headquarters at the end of a long and bitter election campaign in which he has 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 moderate US-based cleric, Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of using a network of followers in 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 targeting businessmen close to him and sons of ministers.

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

The turbulence has unnerved investors, driving the lira currency to a record low in January and prompting losses in stocks of some 8.6 percent since late last year. The strong AKP showing, signalling political continuity, calmed nerves however on Monday and the lira hit a two-month high.

"From a market perspective, the election result appears to be more or less what the doctor ordered: a solid win for the AKP which shores up the position of Turkey's ruling party," said Nicholas Spiro, head of Spiro Sovereign Strategy.

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.

With about 98 percent of votes counted by early on Monday morning, AKP, in power since 2002, had 45.6 percent of the vote, the opposition CHP 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.

(Reuters)

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