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Turkish Strongman Erdogan Wins Presidential Race


Turkey-Presidential-Elections.jpgRecep Tayyip Erdogan, whose full name would hardly appear on an American Scrabble board, is the new president of Turkey.
 
He won 52 percent in Turkey's first ever direct presidential election. His rivals, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, garnered 38 percent, and Selahattin Demirtas 10 percent.  Vote-counting took several days after the Aug. 10 election date.
 
The vote is considered a milestone in Turkish politics because Turks are electing their president by a popular vote for the first time in the country's history, bringing the office a new legitimacy
 
Erdogan, 60, has ruled the 10,000-year-old civilization in Southeastern Europe and Southwestern Asia for the past 11 years as Prime Minister. He will now rule as president for the next five years.
 
However, Erdogan could not run for another fourth term as prime minister so he had cohorts manipulate the country's constitution to allow him to run for the presidential office this year.
 
Now his critics are watching to see who he will appoint as the new prime minister, even though Erdogan, as president, will be calling all the shots, including the appointment of key cabinet members and the issuing of new government laws.
 
According to USAID Economic Analysis and Data Services, Turkey receives a total economic and military assistance package of $3.2 billion from the United States for its 77 million inhabitants. Turkey has asked that amount be increased to $4.8 billion for 2015.
 
Over the years, Turkey has been an ally of the United States but hasn't always sided with the U.S. on regional conflicts. For example, in the current Israel-Hamas war, Turkey, Iran and Qatar are backing Hamas, previously labeled by the United Nations as a terrorist organization.
 
In nationalized talks in Turkey and in conversations with Western diplomats, Erdogan has made it clear that he will continue to keep a tight grip on his country.
 
He is also leaning to making the country more of an Islamic region than it already is, he has said. That could translate into a country sheltering would-be terrorists, comparable to a current situation existing in neighboring Syria, Iran and Iraq.
 
Erdogan, a former professional soccer player, has pledged to use his expected mandate to transform the post into the most prestigious office since modern Turkey's founder, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, was president in the 1930s.
 
For his pluses, Erdogan points to his efforts in raising the status of religious high schools and allowing women to wear head scarves in state universities and in most public offices.
 
He also likes to tell critics to take a look at Turkey's middle class whose nominal annual incomes have tripled to $10,000 per capita under his reign.
 
Critics, however, see Erdogan emerging in a dictatorial role, ruling the government according to his whims and wishes. Turkey's Western allies already are concerned over actions Erdogan has taken so far this year.
 
He has cracked down on anti-government protests and overhauled judicial institutions to head off a corruption investigation that snared dozens of his top allies.
 
In his defense, Erdogan states he has done nothing illegal. He says the corruption charges were an attempt to overthrow his government.
 
He will have many more challenges in his new role. For example, His efforts to make Turkey a regional leader have largely failed. He has damaged traditional alliances with Egypt, Israel and Saudi Arabia.
 
Turkey faces the rise of jihadist fundamentalism, as fighting continues along its southern borders in Iraq and Syria. Conservative Muslims back Erdogan. At the same time, Erdogan continues crucial peace talks with the country's Kurdish minority.
 
On the economic side, the country's $820 billion economy has slowed. It has averaged an annual 5% since Erdogan's AKP party came to power in 2002. He envisions building a $2 trillion economy by 2023, the republic's centenary.
 

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