Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Turkey's Erdogan to consolidate grip as ruling party renews

    Wednesday, September 26, 2012   No comments

By Nick Tattersall and Can Sezer

Erdoğan gives a thumbs-up sign from
the cockpit of the Turkish Primary
and Basic Trainer Aircraft "Hürkus"

(Photo: Reuters)
KONYA, Turkey, Sept 26 (Reuters) - Surveying the street lights sparkling like jewels on the plain below, Tahir Akyurek looks back with satisfaction on his first eight years as mayor of this central Turkish city.

Two-lane highways have been widened to six, a fast train line has put Ankara just an hour and a half away, and there is a new park where students and the elderly chat over tea or wander among pristine lawns in the shadow of elegant minarets.

More so than the teeming streets of cosmopolitan Istanbul, the ordered avenues of Ankara or the resorts of the Aegean and Mediterranean coasts, this conservative industrial city on the Anatolian plateau epitomises the reformist ambitions of Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party.

"Konya is connected with its traditions and embraces the new ... Being conservative, being devoted to tradition, does not mean being reactionary," Akyurek told Reuters, sipping tea and chewing almonds on a cafe terrace overlooking the city.

His sentiments reflect the self-image of the Islamist-rooted AK Party as it prepares for its biggest overhaul since sweeping to power in Turkey a decade ago. Critics are less charitable, viewing it as a threat to the modern secular republic founded by Kemal Ataturk on the ruins of the Ottoman Empire 90 years ago.

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