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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Victors Promise a Secular Turkey

ANKARA, Turkey -- After an overwhelming victory in Turkey's elections, the Justice and Development Party pledged to maintain the nation's pro-Western stance, quickly moving to soothe worries that this crucial U.S. ally would undergo a radical shift toward Islam.

The Justice and Development Party, or AKP, which has Islamic roots, won a parliamentary majority in Sunday's elections -- the first time in 15 years that any party has been in a position to govern alone -- largely due to voter fury over a devastated economy.

The win could concern Turkey's powerful and firmly secular military, which in the past has forced a pro-Islamic government from power. However, the victorious AKP stressed it did not want confrontation.

At a huge celebration at party headquarters, leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan said: "We will not spend our time dizzy with victory. We will build a Turkey where common sense prevails."

On the sidelines, a party official called on supporters not to shout religious slogans such as "Allah is Great!"

With 99.9 percent of ballot boxes counted, Erdogan's party had 34 percent support, the semi-official Anatolia news agency reported. The center-left Republican People's Party had 19 percent, Anatolia reported.

Other parties remained below the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament, meaning that the AKP and the Republicans would divvy up all 550 seats. Projections by Anatolia showed the AKP taking 363 seats -- enough to rule without a coalition -- and the Republicans winning 178.

The vote came as the United States was trying to showcase Turkey as an example of a secular, democratic country that is overwhelmingly Muslim but has cast its future with the West. Turkey -- NATO's only Muslim member -- is crucial to any possible action against Iraq, which borders this nation.

Erdogan opposes a war against Iraq unless it is approved by the United Nations -- a similar attitude to that of outgoing Prime Minister Bulent Ecevit. "We do not want war, blood, tears and dead in our region," Erdogan said, adding, "we are obliged by the United Nations' decisions."

Republican party leader Deniz Baykal refused on Monday to describe Erdogan's party as a threat to Turkey's secular system. "Such accusations would put the country into distress," he said.

"We have to act in good faith. But I will retain caution," Baykal said. "The whole world will be watching developments very carefully."

The AKP sought to calm the public and the markets with pledges of support for secularism, Turkey's bid to join the European Union and an International Monetary Fund austerity program.

"We have no intention to challenge the world," Erdogan told Dow Jones Newswires. "Under our government, Turkey will be in harmony with the world."

It was not clear if Erdogan would seek to change Turkey's close military ties with Israel. Many Turks sympathize strongly with the Palestinians, and have called on previous governments to diminish ties with Israel.

Markets seemed to be relieved that the victors planned to press ahead with the IMF-backed recovery plan. Shares had risen 6.9 percent on Istanbul's benchmark index by 11:30 a.m. Monday after two hours of trading.

Although Erdogan leads the AKP, he has been banned from standing as a candidate because of a jail sentence he served in 1999 for publicly reading a poem that a court deemed anti-secular.

Erdogan told the Milliyet newspaper in an interview that his party will meet Tuesday and Wednesday to decide on who to nominate as premier. The AKP appeared to be just short of the two-thirds parliamentary majority needed to change the constitution to allow Erdogan to become premier.

The elections also marked the ouster of Turkey's longtime dominant political class. The party of outgoing Prime Minister Ecevit won only 1 percent of the vote and his coalition partners were below the 10 percent threshold needed for entry into parliament.