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news 02 Nov 15

Erdogan Victory Strengthens Turkey's Role in Balkans

Erdogan’s admirers in mainly Muslim parts of the Balkans took to the streets to celebrate the victory of his Justice and Development party, which won back its Turkish parliamentary majority.

Sarajevo, Tirana, Pristina, Podgorica, Belgrade, Skopje
Erdogan won back a majority for his ruling party in the parliamentary elections. | Photo: Beta.

Hundreds of Kosovars in the southern town of Prizren joined the celebration of the Justice and Development (AK) party’s victory on Sunday, some carrying banners with Erdogan’s picture and chanting his party’s slogans, others driving around waving Turkish flags.

In the Macedonian capital Skopje, a stage was set up in the old Turkish bazaar in the centre of the city, where a group of mainly Turkish people followed the election’s progress live. A fireworks display was launched after the first results were announced.

The festivity was joined by Bosniaks and Albanians from Macedonia who celebrated the AK Party’s win by driving though the city with Turkish flags until late into the night.

Albanians also celebrated in the northern Macedonian town of Tetovo with fireworks and street celebrations.  

A small number of Erdogan's supporters gathered meanwhile in front of the old Bosnian National Library in the capital Sarajevo, waving Bosnian and Turkish flags. 

The celebrations and praises were a testimony to the strong political, diplomatic but also economic influence that Turkey has established across the Balkans in recent years, especially during Erdogan's reign.

With almost all the votes counted by Sunday evening, election results showed that the AK Party has secured a clear majority, reversing the losses it suffered in a previous election in June.

This result was welcomed by Muslims across the Balkans who see Turkey as a traditional friend and Erdogan as a champion whose political and economic support has reinforced their own positions in a fragile region dominated by Roman Catholic and Orthodox populations.

But respect for Erdgoan crosses the ethnic lines in the Balkans.  

Serbian Premier Aleksandar Vucic was among the first to congratulate the Turkish leader.

"I congratulate you and your party on the convincing victory in today's elections. I wish that you ensure peace, stability and prosperity for Turkish citizens," Vucic said in a statement issued on Sunday evening.

The news was welcomed by Bosniak ethnic parties and the Islamic community in Montenegro.

The Bosniak Party, a junior ruling party in Montenegro, said that the victory will allow the formation of a government in Turkey which will safeguard the peace and security of everyone in the region.

The head of the Islamic community in Montenegro, Reis Rifat Fejzic, said that he was "very pleased" with the outcome of the elections in Turkey.

Erdogan's triumph was welcomed also in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a country he has visited seven times during the period he has served as Turkish prime minister and then president.

"So far, Erdogan has been the biggest promoter of a wider Turkish influence in the Balkans," Aleksandar Trifunovic, the editor-in-chief of news website Buka, based in the predominately Serb town of Banja Luka, told BIRN. 

“The victory of his party means, first of all, that he will continue to strengthen the connection between our two countries," Trifunovic said.

He added however that "given the current situation in the Middle East, I seriously doubt that Bosnia will still represent a priority for Ankara's foreign policy in the near future".

Nerzuk Curak, a professor of geopolitics at the Faculty of Political Sciences of Sarajevo, said that Erdogan’s party already has good relations with some of the parties in the Bosnian government, particularly with the Party of Democratic Action led by Bakir Izetbegovic. 

"Sunday's elections will bolster the figure of Erdogan as an important leader for the region,” Curak told BIRN.

“Moreover, the fact that now his party will have an absolute majority in parliament might enable him to act with greater freedom on the international scene," he said.

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