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Erdogan consolidates control over Turkey with election win

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is armed with sweeping new powers after Sunday’s elections, which cemented his status as preeminent leader, possibly for years to come. William Brangham reports.

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  • Judy Woodruff:

    Turkey held its presidential and parliamentary elections yesterday. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won a new term.

    And, as William Brangham reports, Erdogan is now armed with sweeping new powers, cementing his status as Turkey's preeminent leader.

  • William Brangham:

    Fireworks erupted over the Turkish capital, Ankara, as news spread last night of President Erdogan's victory.

  • Recep Tayyip Erdogan (through translator):

    The winner of this election is democracy, our nation. The winners of this election are every one of the 81 million citizens.

  • William Brangham:

    Erdogan was first elected president in 2014, after 11 years as prime minister. On Sunday, he won just shy of 53 percent of the vote, enough to avoid a runoff with opposition candidate Muharrem Ince, who finished a distant second.

    Ince ultimately conceded, but blasted Erdogan.

  • Muharrem Ince (through translator):

    Turkey has cut off its links with democracy. Unfortunately, it is understood that for a while longer we won't depend on rules and institutions. We have entirely transitioned to a one-man regime.

  • William Brangham:

    Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party lost its majority in Parliament, but will stay in power with a coalition partner. Erdogan will now exercise sweeping new powers that were granted to the presidency in a referendum last year.

    Chief among the changes, the position of prime minister is eliminated, shifting executive powers to the president. Erdogan will get to appoint many judges and cabinet officials, positions that were previously elected.

    And he will also be allowed to serve for up to three new terms, potentially until 2032.

  • Steven Cook:

    He can rule essentially unfettered. The opposition is quite concerned that he will use these new powers to rule essentially unchecked to deepen authoritarianism in Turkey.

  • William Brangham:

    Steven Cook is a senior fellow for Middle East and Africa studies at the Council on Foreign Relations.

  • Steven Cook:

    Without judicial review, without parliamentary oversight, Erdogan can do what he wants how he wants it in the name of the transformation of Turkish society. Turkey is one of the world's leading jailers of journalists in the world, going after academics who have voiced opposition to the government. A whole range of people who don't agree with the government have faced legal jeopardy as a result.

  • William Brangham:

    Erdogan has already waged a sweeping campaign against dissent, largely in response to an attempted coup in 2016. His government has fired or detained more than 100,000 government officials and shuttered dozens of newspapers and television stations.

    Erdogan's record has caused friction between Turkey and the European Union, but Ankara retains major leverage.

  • Steven Cook:

    There is one issue that is putting a brake on European criticism of the conduct of this election, and that is the presence of almost three million refugees in Turkey. Erdogan and other Turkish officials have in the past threatened to essentially unleash refugees from the Middle East on Europe.

    They may not happily accept this outcome, but, nevertheless, they won't be too critical of Erdogan and the new system in Turkey.

  • William Brangham:

    The same holds true for the U.S. Despite heated disagreement over America's Kurdish allies fighting ISIS in Syria, Steven Cook says the Trump White House will accept the status quo in Turkey.

  • Steven Cook:

    As long as the United States can continue to fight the Islamic State, I think the conduct and outcome of Turkey's election are of secondary, at best, concern for the Trump administration.

  • William Brangham:

    President Trump has praised the Turkish leader, citing their great friendship during a meeting in 2017.

    For the "PBS NewsHour," I'm William Brangham.

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