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On The Scene

On the scene: The public were fed up

Erdogan
Rodgers: The public cared more about economics the Erdogan's background

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A political party with Islamic ties celebrates its landslide victory. CNN's Walter Rodgers reports
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ANKARA, Turkey (CNN) -- CNN's Walter Rodgers is in Ankara, covering the Turkish elections. He talked to CNN International anchor Hala Gorani about the election result, and what it means.

Gorani: Initially, the successful candidate was considered an Islamist and perhaps even a threat to Turkish democracy. What happened? Do people believe that he has reformed and become more secular?

Rodgers: I think it's a matter of priorities among the electorate. The most important thing to remember is that Turkey has been in a horrible economic depression for three years. The official unemployment rate is 14 percent, the unofficial rate is maybe as high as 30 percent. The Gross Domestic Product plummeted by a full one-third over the past two or three years.

The public were just fed up. The landslide was largely a byproduct of public dissatisfaction. The public cared more about economic and bread and butter issues than it cared about Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic background. They are willing to give anyone a chance.

They threw out all the incumbents. Bulent Ecevit, the old prime minister, saw an end to his 40 years in politics. The nearest runner up, the Republican People's Party, drew less than 20 percent of the vote. It was just simply a walkover.

Newspaper headlines put it best. One said: "Explosion in Turkey." And that is what we saw here last night. A political explosion.

No-one here denies the Islamic past of Mr. Erdogan, but he is trying hard to soft pedal that now.

Gorani: What can Erdogan do now, that Bulent Ecevit was unable to do?

Rodgers: He can allay the fears of the establishment here in Turkey, because he has certainly shocked the political establishment here in Turkey to its vital core.

What he did in the small hours of the morning was to try to allay everyone's fears. He said to secular Turks -- look, I'm not going to disturb your lifestyle. He then looked West to the EU and said he was going to try to expedite Turkey's membership of the EU.

But that is a bit disingenuous because it is not in his hands do that. It is up to the EU to set the date for Turkey's entry and the EU is going to take a close look at this election before it does that.

But Mr. Erdogan said he was going to go along with most of the IMF proposals for reforming Turkey's economy, although he said he would offer to make some changes.

What we are seeing here is a probable shift to the more conservative religious right here, but not a major religious revolution.



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