IT WAS QUITE a victory when, despite all the pre-general election scaremongering about the probability of Turkey becoming an Islamic state, a massive 80% of the electorate--turned out to record a landslide result for the country's Islamist-rooted prime minister Recep Erdogan.
The prime minister returns to power with an impressive 47% of the vote, winning 342 seats in the 550-seat parliament.
The victory of Mr Erdogan's Justice and Development (AKP) party marks the first time in a Turkish election that a ruling party improved its standing, giving it a strong mandate for the future. It was also a major slap in the face for those who had warned against offering support to a man who, his rivals alleged, was intent on dismantling the country's existing constitution, the legacy of Kemal Attaturk.
But in success Mr Erdogan was gracious and swift to reassure voters that Turkey's secularist ideology was under no threat.
"Democracy has passed a very important test today", the prime minister told crowds in Ankara, after the results were announced. "Whoever you voted for ... we respect your choices. We regard your differences as part of our pluralist democracy. It is part of our responsibility to safeguard this richness."
With its roots in political Islam the AKP attracts support from Turks across the length and breadth of the country, especially from socially conservative Muslim merchants and business people, often in more rural areas.
During its term of office, it has looked beyond the major towns and cities in its political mandate and brought increased prosperity to previously neglected areas. Its policies however, have frequently infuriated Turkey's powerful military generals, who have ousted four elected governments since 1960.
The sheer scale of Mr Erdogan's election victory will make it more difficult for the old guard of politicians, industrialists and bureaucrats who, with the support of the army, have monopolised power, to intervene as Turkey moves...