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Turkey Election - 2002-11-06


The Islamist-based party, A-K-P, won 34 percent of the popular vote, capturing 363 out of the parliament's 550 seats. This will enable A-K-P to govern alone, ending 15 years of coalition governments.

The victory by the untested, one-year-old Justice and Development Party is a crushing defeat for Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit and his three-party coalition, which will not have a single seat in the new legislature.

BULENT ECEVIT, TURKISH PRIME MINISTER
"Our coalition partners agreed on having elections for today instead of April 2004. It is a great mistake. This was practically suicide."

Mr. Ecevit offered to resign Monday, but he was asked to remain in a caretaker capacity until a new government is formed.

The head of the A-K-P, former Istanbul Mayor Recep Tayyip Erdogan, is barred from serving as prime minister or taking a seat in parliament because he was convicted four years ago of inciting religious hatred. But he said his party would be tolerant.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN
“We will not discriminate against any party. Our principle has always been we are open to a coalition with anyone."

Turkey's president will meet with the leader of the victorious Justice and Development Party this week to discuss whom from that party will become Turkey's new prime minister.

U.S. State Department spokesman, Richard Boucher responded positively to the election results saying the U.S. looks forward to working with the new Turkish Parliament.

RICHARD BOUCHER, U.S. STATE DEPARTMENT SPOKESMAN
“We note that the parties represented in the new parliament reflect the aspirations of the Turkish people for continued progress on the path towards European Union membership and for the implementation of political and economic reforms.”

During victory speeches, Mr. Erdogan said his party would work to speed up the country's move to gain long-hoped European Union membership, and will follow an economic program to integrate Turkey with the rest of the world.

RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN
“We will sit down with the IMF and take a look again at each article of the program. We will request changes if we deem that necessary."

EU officials welcomed the election results, saying they are ready to work with a new Turkish government. Mr. Erdogan says he hopes to visit Greece within the next 10 days to begin this process.

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