Erdogan Promises Compromise With Opposition

Posted June 13th, 2011 at 5:45 am (UTC-5)
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Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has vowed to reach out to the opposition after election results gave his party a landslide victory in Sunday's parliamentary elections.

However, the ruling Justice and Development Party fell short of the two-thirds majority it needed to change the country's constitution. Mr. Erdogan said the vote result shows that the new constitution should instead be achieved by compromise.

The prime minister has promised to amend the constitution, written in 1982 when Turkey was under military rule.

In the 550-seat parliament, the ruling party won 326 seats. The main opposition Republican People's Party got 135 seats, and third-running Nationalist Action Party won 53.

It is unclear what changes the prime minister plans to make. But political opponents have said they believe Mr. Erdogan is becoming more autocratic, less tolerant of the opposition, and moving Turkey away from a secular state to a more Islamic-style government.

His backers say the amended constitution would guarantee more rights for minorities, including Kurds.

The Kurds had threatened to boycott Sunday's vote after Turkey's main election board announced plans to ban seven Kurdish candidates from running. That decision was later reversed. The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been fighting for an ethnic homeland since 1984. The fighting has killed about 40,000 people. Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist group.

Although Sunday's vote was peaceful, the Anatolia news agency says police arrested 34 people in the mainly Kurdish southeast province of Batman for allegedly trying to coerce people into supporting Kurdish nationalists running as independents.