Turkey's controversial leader sweeps the polls

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Audio Transcript:

Aaron Schachter: I'm Aaron Schachter, this is The World. Last Summer, Turkey was in the news a lot, massive protests gripped Istanbul's Gezi Park. They were aimed at the government of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Then this year, recordings were leaked to social media, showing apparent corruption involving Erdogan's family and inner circle. So you'd think the prime minister's AK party would pay a price at the polls for all of that, but think again. Local elections this weekend in Turkey handed Erdogan and the AK party a big victory. I asked reporter Dalia Mortada in Istanbul to explain.

Dalia Mortada: You're absolutely right, Aaron. There has been a lot of reporting, in terms of corruption, in terms of mass protest, in terms of dissatisfaction - all of those things are still there. But in the end, there isn't an alternative for social conservatives or religious voters and there have been a lot of accomplishments made by the AKP over the last decade. They've advocated for more religious freedom and they've succeeded at that. They're the closest party to ever get to a peace agreement with the Kurdish population, which is something that has plagued the country, a conflict that has plagued the country for a very long time. That in combination with tight media control where a lot of the population hadn't seen what was happening during Gezi and hasn't actually had access to a lot of these alleged phone leaks and alleged phone calls between the prime minister and his inner circle, that would serve as evidence for corruption, that combination of factors has contributed to these local elections results.

Schachter: Dalia, is there any real competition for the AKP as far as a party there or a personality there who is seen as straightforward, who is seen as working for the country?

Mortada: There's really no one like the AKP and definitely no one like Erdogan in Turkey. He's really got this incredible image of this strong, no-nonsense leader who just tells it how it is and is very tough on a lot of factors that the general Turkish population would see as threats. Whether it's foreign intervention, whether it's the United States, whether it's Israel, that kind of talk only comes from Erdogan.

Schachter: Talking about the way that Erdogan speaks, the sort of no-nonsense approach, he's given these talks at rallies in the last few weeks where he's threatened to "hunt down" his enemies "in their lairs." Who is Erdogan railing against when he talks about his enemies?

Mortada: Right now he's talking about the Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, who's been living in Pennsylvania for over a decade now. Fethullah Gulen has this very loose, not very definable movement of followers and a lot of people that are very powerful and have a lot money are a part of the Fethullah Gulen movement. So when he talks about "hunting down" anyone in their "lairs," right now he's talking about that movement.

Schachter: Reporter Dalia Mortada in Istanbul, Turkey. Thanks, Dalia.

Mortada: Thanks, Aaron.