Turkish PM urges voters for fresh AK Party mandate

Turkish PM Erdogan urged voters to hand his ruling AK Party a fresh mandate in March local elections.

Turkish PM urges voters for fresh AK Party mandate

Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan urged voters on Friday to hand his ruling AK Party a fresh mandate in March local elections to tackle a worsening economy and push for European Union-inspired reforms.

AK Party won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections in 2007, but faces mounting challenges ahead of the March 29 vote amid rising unemployment after years of strong growth.

Taking his campaign trail to the Anatolian heartland, a traditional AK Party bastion, Erdogan told thousands of supporters Turkey would emerge from economic gloom and expand freedoms designed to help it join the EU.

"We took over a huge poverty problem when we came to power. Now we are walking towards a strong economic structure," he told the rally in the city of Sivas.

Erdogan pledged to end discrimination against the Alevi minority, who practise a liberal brand of Islam in mainly Sunni Muslim Turkey. Sivas has a large Alevi community.

"We reject the outdated understanding of discrimination against people with different ethnic and religious backgrounds," said Erdogan, wearing the scarf of the local soccer team.

Before going to Sivas Erdogan said he would resume talks with the opposition on drafting a new constitution.

The EU has long demanded that Ankara overhaul its 1982 military-inspired constitution.

The AK Party has long pledged to amend it to curtail the power of the military, expand minority freedoms and modernise the state apparatus.

But last year it dropped plans to do so, to avoid polarising society, after narrowly beating off a public prosecutor's attempt to have the party banned for Islamist activities.

Erdogan plans to campaign in over 60 cities, hoping to win more than 50 percent of the vote in the municipal elections.

Reuters

Last Mod: 14 Şubat 2009, 11:21
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