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Friday, October 21, 2016

Ankara (AFP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Thursday called for the swift formation of a new coalition government, ending almost four days of unusual silence after legislative polls seen as a blow to his authority.

Erdogan’s comments added weight to expectations of a coalition government in Turkey after the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) he co-founded lost its majority in Sunday’s dramatic polls.

“Everyone should put their egos aside and a government must be formed as soon as possible, within the constitutional process,” Erdogan said in his first public comments since Sunday’s vote.

In a message to investors rattled by the political uncertainty, Erdogan insisted that the election result “certainly does not mean Turkey will remain without a government”.

He said he hoped political parties would “prefer a solution rather than crisis.

“We cannot leave Turkey without a government, without a head. Those who are condemned to their egos will neither be able to give account to history, nor to our people.”

Although the AKP won the biggest share of the vote in the elections, it lost its majority for the first time since it came to power in 2002.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said Wednesday that the AKP would lead coalition talks with other parties but warned that snap elections were not ruled out should the discussions fail.

The elections were also seen as a huge personal blow to Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey first as premier from 2003-2014 and now as president.

Erdogan wanted the AKP to win a supermajority to push through a new constitution that would give him reinforced powers as president. But this plan has now been scuttled for the foreseeable future.

Erdogan said the election result was “the people’s will” and must be respected.

“Nobody, no matter which politician, has the right to say ‘I’. We must say ‘We,'” he said.

Erdogan’s relatively conciliatory comments helped support the Turkish lira reverse early losses against the dollar to gain 0.5 percent in value. On the Istanbul bourse, the BIST 100 Index was up 0.9 percent.

The president — known for his raucous speeches and omnipresence on Turkish television news channels — had not spoken in public since he cast his vote in Sunday’s polls.

According to a “ticking clock” set up by bloggers, he had been “off air” for three days, 22 hours and one minute.

Reports have suggested that some in the AKP were unhappy with Erdogan’s aggressive conduct of the campaign, where he lashed out at enemies in all directions.

However in Thursday’s speech, the combative leader showed no sign of retreating into a corner.

He lashed out at the Western media following a series of “ugly” articles critical of his conduct as president.

“It is hard to understand their intolerance. It means, thank God, we are on the right path. I would doubt about myself if they had praised (me),” Erdogan said.

Erdogan also lashed out at Western foreign policy in Syria, saying while war planes bombed Arabs and Turkmen the West allowed “a terrorist organisation” like the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) to move in.

“How can we look at this positively? How can we look to the West sincerely?” he asked.

He also accused the West of leaving refugees to “drown” in the Mediterranean. “We cannot allow this,” he said.

Erdogan warned that all those “who pinned their hopes on Turkey entering into a climate of crisis or chaos will be disappointed once again”.

The election results meant the AKP will have 258 seats in the hung 550-seat parliament, the Republican People’s Party (CHP) 132, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) 80 apiece.

Analysts have said an AKP-MHP coalition is the most likely option, with the AKP sharing a conservative and nationalist voter base with the MHP.

But such a partnership could also spell trouble for the peace process with Turkey’s Kurds, which is opposed by the MHP.

HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas said that the peace process would continue once a government was formed, indicating the PKK’s jailed leader Abdullah Ocalan was readying a new appeal to lay down arms.

“It is Mr Ocalan who will appeal for disarmament. He is waiting on Imrali ready to make an appeal,” said Demirtas, referring to the prison island where Ocalan is held.

Photo: Turkey’s President Tayyip Erdogan says “egos” should be cast aside in order to form a government as soon as possible (AFP / Adem Altan)

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