Leading article: A template for democracy in a Muslim country

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The Independent Online

The victory won by Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) could rightly be described as the Goldilocks variant: not too big, not too small, but just right. Turkey's 50 million-plus voters gave the AKP, and Mr Erdogan as Prime Minister, a third term, but they gave him slightly fewer seats, depriving him of the majority he had sought to make unilateral changes to the constitution. Other trends indicated in the results were also to be welcomed. The secular Republican People's Party gained seats; the far-right nationalist party lost support; and there will be a record number of women in the new parliament. There will also be more Kurdish MPs.

In all, that is a positive outcome, and evidence of the maturity of Turkey's electorate. Voters rewarded the AKP for the past four years of impressive economic growth and some much-needed social programmes, but the reward was not unconditional. Mr Erdogan will not be allowed to rest on his laurels, nor will the AKP be able to race to a position of single-party dominance. As he recognised in his victory speech, the Prime Minister will have to seek a consensus for any constitutional changes he decides to pursue.

This is salutary for any national leader, and it is particularly desirable in Turkey, with its big disparities in economic development, its high level of income inequality, and the widely divergent views that exist about its future course. If Mr Erdogan is guided by the trends to be discerned in the voting, his new government will move a shade towards the secularists, and take a more serious look at giving the Kurdish minority more autonomy.

There is nothing about this result that should impede Turkey's long, and chequered, bid for EU membership – on the contrary. Yet frustration with Brussels has been one factor in Turkey's shift of focus to a regional role, and the Arab Spring only served to reinforce this. The AKP's record in office, as its victory on Sunday, shows again that Europe has nothing to fear, and much to gain, when a Muslim country embraces democracy. At best, we can hope that where Turkey goes today, the region as a whole might go tomorrow.