By Ray Fleming

TURKEY'S governing party, the Justice and Development Party led by Recep Tayyip Erdogan, won the country's general election on Sunday as expected but with just too few parliamentary seats to give Mr Erdogan the overall majority he had hoped for. It was an impressive victory for a party seeking a third term of office but, fortunately, it did not obliterate the three main opposition parties.

Their continuing existence as viable alternatives to Mr Erdogan is important because despite his very considerable abilities and achievements there are some worrying signs of an inclination to authoritarianism in some of his speeches and actions. He had wanted an overall majority so that he could write a new constitution and put it to the electorate in a referendum which he would be confident of winning.

The constitution, an outdated relic of a military coup in 1980, should certainly be replaced but it will be better as a result of the consultation with other parties that Mr Erdogan must now undertake. In the last few years Turkey has consolidated its role as an Islamic-inclined Middle East democracy which has an important role to play in international affairs. It is unfortunate, therefore, that some countries in the European Union remain totally opposed to Turkey's application for membership which has been under consideration for a decade. Sunday's election should give a new impetus to the negotiations.

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