Turkey elections: Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan sets sights on revenge after resounding victory

'Some might try to run away,' Erdogan said, 'but they are going to pay for what they have done'

Istanbul

As he emerged before the jubilant crowds on the eve of his election victory, one might have expected Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be in a conciliatory mood.

His ruling Justice and Development party (AK) claimed a resounding victory in Sunday’s municipal elections – largely viewed as a referendum on Mr Erdogan’s leadership after a corruption crisis – further entrenching its 12-year rule. But it was revenge the Prime Minister had on his mind.

“We are going to go into the caves of those traitors,” he told the cheering crowds. “Some might try to run away tomorrow but they are going to pay for what they have done.”

His words were  directed towards his enemies – chief among them his arch-rival Fethullah Gulen, a moderate Islamic cleric whom Mr Erdogan blames for a widening graft probe and bribery scandal embroiling the premier and his entourage. Tensions between the two, and how Mr Erdogan  will address those tensions, could have worrying repercussions for the country’s economy – which ranks in the world’s top 20 – and polarise a country where a pious heartland coexists with progressive Muslims living in cities.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his victory Recep Tayyip Erdogan after his victory (Reuters)

Mr Gulen, who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States, used to support Mr Erdogan until a widening rift between the two men turned into open conflict in December. The country’s judiciary, where Mr Gulen is thought to have a strong influence, targeted the sons of Erdogan’s ministers, making a series of corruption-related arrests while several anonymous recordings linking the premier himself to bribery scandals were leaked.

Erdogan struck back by reassigning hundreds of people in the judiciary and police, while his government gained enhanced controls over the courts. When the leaked wiretappings continued to expose his dictatorial traits and alleged corruption, the premier shut down social media Twitter and YouTube.  

The main opposition, the People’s Republican Party (CHP) made small gains after focusing its campaign on criticising the Erdogan administration. But it failed to capitalise on his woes, and many voters viewed its policies as weak. It also failed to garner support from the more traditional, working-class Turks whom it had long ignored.  According to semi-state press agency Anadolu, AKP  won 45.56 per cent of the votes while CHP received 27.91 per cent.

“The CHP and other parties are pathetic,” said Ayse Ozdenir, a mother of two who voted for the AK. “Erdogan has promised and delivered social services, an effective administration and good life – voting against that would be treason.”

Observers say the election victory is likely to embolden Mr Erdogan in going after Mr Gulen’s followers.

“We will see more pressure on the borders of legality after the elections because the judiciary, police and Gulen movement will be cleaned and that will not be very democratic,” said Can Paker, from TESEV, a think tank. But Mr Paker was confident Erdogan’s administration, which has been accused of being increasingly authoritarian, will eventually be reined in.

“A progressing middle class which aspires to personal freedoms – do you think [they] will allow a leader to suppress them?” he said.

Mr Erdogan is unable to run for a fourth term as premier unless the constitution is amended. An alternative would be to run for president at this summer’s elections, but he will need the backing of a clear majority of the Turkish electorate. The latest polls suggest he will need to make some unlikely alliances, and some suggest that he may even approach the Kurdish parties in order to secure a win.

Arts and Entertainment
TVShow's twee, safe facade smashed by ice cream melting scandal
News
newsVideo for No campaign was meant to get women voting
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Arts and Entertainment
Lisa Kudrow, Courtney Cox and Jennifer Anniston reunite for a mini Friends sketch on Jimmy Kimmel Live
tv
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Sport
Alexis Sanchez celebrates after scoring his first goal for Arsenal in the Champions League qualifier against Besiktas
sportChilean's first goal for the club secures place in draw for Champions League group stages
News
i100
News
Down time: an employee of Google uses the slide to get to the canteen
scienceBosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder
Arts and Entertainment
Amis: 'The racial situation in the US is as bad as it’s been since the Civil War'
booksAuthor says he might come back across Atlantic after all
Extras
indybest
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (infrastructure, upgrades, rollouts)

£38000 - £45000 Per Annum + excellent benefits package: Clearwater People Solu...

MI Analyst and SQL Developer (SQL, SSAS, SSRS)

£28000 - £32500 Per Annum + 28 days holiday, pension, discounts and more: Clea...

Creative Content Executive (writer, social media, website)

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum + 25 days holiday and bonus: Clearwater People Solut...

Systems & Data Lead – Oxfordshire – Permanent – Up to £24k

£20000 - £24000 Per Annum 28 days holiday, free parking, pension: Clearwater P...

Day In a Page

Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone
Amazon is buying Twitch for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?

What is the appeal of Twitch?

Amazon is buying the video-game-themed online streaming site for £600m - but why do people want to watch others playing Xbox?
Tip-tapping typewriters, ripe pongs and slides in the office: Bosses are inventing surprising ways of making us work harder

How bosses are making us work harder

As it is revealed that one newspaper office pumps out the sound of typewriters to increase productivity, Gillian Orr explores the other devices designed to motivate staff
Manufacturers are struggling to keep up with the resurgence in vinyl records

Hard pressed: Resurgence in vinyl records

As the resurgence in vinyl records continues, manufacturers and their outdated machinery are struggling to keep up with the demand
Tony Jordan: 'I turned down the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series nine times ... then I found a kindred spirit'

A tale of two writers

Offered the chance to research Charles Dickens for a TV series, Tony Jordan turned it down. Nine times. The man behind EastEnders and Life on Mars didn’t feel right for the job. Finally, he gave in - and found an unexpected kindred spirit
Could a later start to the school day be the most useful educational reform of all?

Should pupils get a lie in?

Doctors want a later start to the school day so that pupils can sleep later. Not because teenagers are lazy, explains Simon Usborne - it's all down to their circadian rhythms
Prepare for Jewish jokes – as Jewish comedians get their own festival

Prepare for Jewish jokes...

... as Jewish comedians get their own festival
SJ Watson: 'I still can't quite believe that Before I Go to Sleep started in my head'

A dream come true for SJ Watson

Watson was working part time in the NHS when his debut novel, Before I Go to Sleep, became a bestseller. Now it's a Hollywood movie, too. Here he recalls the whirlwind journey from children’s ward to A-list film set
10 best cycling bags for commuters

10 best cycling bags for commuters

Gear up for next week’s National Cycle to Work day with one of these practical backpacks and messenger bags
Paul Scholes: Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United

Paul Scholes column

Three at the back isn’t working yet but given time I’m hopeful Louis van Gaal can rebuild Manchester United
Kate Bush, Hammersmith Apollo music review: A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it

Kate Bush shows a voice untroubled by time

A preamble, then a coup de théâtre - and suddenly the long wait felt worth it
Robot sheepdog technology could be used to save people from burning buildings

The science of herding is cracked

Mathematical model would allow robots to be programmed to control crowds and save people from burning buildings
Tyrant: Is the world ready for a Middle Eastern 'Dallas'?

This tyrant doesn’t rule

It’s billed as a Middle Eastern ‘Dallas’, so why does Fox’s new drama have a white British star?