A former Brisbane Grammar School counsellor who sadistically abused scores of children had a “conveyor belt” of boys filing through his office, an inquiry has heard.


The heavy, soundproof doors to Kevin John Lynch’s office were often closed and students filed through separate exits so no-one knew who was coming or going.

“Now I look back with hindsight, I believe that the set-up of Lynch’s room and how you were ushered in and out was effectively a secure conveyor belt of victims,” one victim told the sex abuse royal commission on Tuesday.

The witness, who cannot be named for legal reasons, appeared on the first day of the Brisbane hearings probing the experiences of former students at Brisbane Grammar and St Paul’s School at Bald Hills.

It will specifically investigate abuse carried out by former staff members Lynch, who taught at both schools, and Gregory Robert Knight.

Former governor-general and Anglican archbishop of Brisbane Peter Hollingworth is listed among the witnesses – who include former students, staff and school chaplains – set to give evidence over the next fortnight.

Recalling his own experiences in the early 1980s, the first witness said he had been “put under” by Lynch, who masturbated and struck him across the face.

At other times, the school counsellor made him ingest his own semen and inserted acupuncture needles into his testes.

“I was badly let down by this culture of turning a blind eye and ‘protecting the brand’, and it’s hard not to see it as a deliberate cover-up,” he said.

A second witness recalled being sent to Lynch for therapy after it was revealed his father had committed suicide, with the counsellor becoming a “father figure”.

“I felt really special and the abuse was the price to me of feeling special,” he said, telling the inquiry he was abused up to three times in a single week.

Lynch committed suicide in 1997, a day after being charged with nine counts of abuse relating to one boy.

The mother of a third victim, driven to heroin use and three suicide attempts as a result of his abuse, said the family had endured financial strain to send their child to one of Brisbane’s best schools.

“What did we get for our money?” she asked through tears.

“We got the worst anyone could possibly imagine.”

The royal commission continues.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14


Australia have not lost a test at their Gabba fortress in 27 years but have rarely appeared more vulnerable with the string of retirements that followed the Ashes defeat in England.


As a stand-in skipper, Smith led Australia to a series win over India in the last home summer but the 26-year-old has since lost a wealth of experience, with predecessor Michael Clarke, paceman Ryan Harris and opening batsman Chris Rogers among the departed.

A batting order that performed woefully for large parts of the 3-2 Ashes loss now includes only Smith and his deputy David Warner as players with 10 tests to their name.

Much will be asked of two-test Queenslander Joe Burns who replaces the dependable Rogers for at least the first two tests of the series.

With Warner, Rogers formed one of cricket’s most effective opening partnerships in recent years, so Burns will be under pressure to hold up his end in front of fans in his home state.

Also under heavy scrutiny, Queensland captain Usman Khawaja has been thrown in the deep end to bat third in the order for his first test in over two years.

He replaces Smith who has demoted himself to fourth but flourished at number three for most of the past two years.

The move seems curiously defensive and likely to give Brendon McCullum’s bowlers added conviction that their opponents are ripe for the picking.

“If there’s a run of wickets hopefully I can stop it,” Smith said in comments published on Tuesday by Sydney’s Daily Telegraph newspaper.

“I think a lot of the players that are coming through at the moment are top-order players.

“It’s just the way I see it at the moment. Breaking it up between Davey and myself and hopefully the guys at the top and No.3 do well and then I can just come in and get some runs on the board as well.”

McCullum’s side is far more settled and relishing a rare chance to face off with a quality opponent in a three-test series that travels to Perth and Adelaide.

The Gabba has proved a graveyard for most visiting teams and New Zealand’s sole win at the ground was 30 years ago when a marauding Richard Hadlee destroyed Allan Border’s team with 15 wickets, including an astonishing 9-52 in the first innings.

That set the tone for New Zealand’s last series win in Australia, so McCullum will hope for a Hadlee-esque performance from either Trent Boult or fellow seamer Tim Southee to knock over the hosts on their favourite home wicket.

With the Gabba pitch tipped to be dependably quick and bouncy, and both sides boasting dynamic fast bowlers, the match may well be decided by which side’s batsmen can better weather the storm.

With the tourists boasting the more settled batting order, McCullum’s men may feel themselves well positioned for a raid on the Gabba fortress.

(Editing by Ian Ransom; Editing by Patrick Johnston)


Infrared satellite images released by US officials to media reportedly show a heat flash near the location of the crash when it happened.


The airline has also bolstered the terrorism theory, saying the disaster could only have been caused by what it calls “external factors” rather than technical faults or pilot error.

For the relatives of the 224 victims, the first task is to identify the dead. On a bleak St Petersburg day, many carried flowers as they arrived at the morgue. The task of finding out why this tragedy happened is expected to take much longer.

The airline insists there was nothing wrong with the plane or crew, fuelling speculation of foul play. Alexander Smirnov is the deputy general director of the airline Kogalymavia, owner of metrojet.


“There are no such faults, like engine failure, system failure, there is no such combination of systems failure, that could lead to a plane breaking up in the air. The only explanation of a mid-air break-up can be a specific impact. Some mechanical or physical impact.”


He couldn’t say what, or who, caused such a devastating impact.

The company argues the plane was in excellent condition, despite claims to the contrary by the co-pilot’s wife. It says radar data shows the plane suffered a catastrophic loss of speed and altitude, and that no emergency calls were made.

French aviation expert, Gerard Feldzer, says that sheds doubt on the possibility of mechanical failure.

“One thing is sure: If such a violent and sudden accident occurred, it might have been due to an engine explosion that could have set fire to the wing and led to the loss of control of the plane, which would have spun into a nosedive. Or, it also could have lost a part of its rudder. We can imagine this scenario but we can also imagine that the pilot in this situation would have sent a mayday distress signal since he was in contact with the control tower.”


The black boxes are being examined by a multi-national investigation team, but the results may not be able to solve this mystery, says Tony Cable, a former air accident investigator.


“If there’s a sudden structural failure, the recorders won’t necessarily show very much. So the flight data recorder could just well show everything normal – airspeed, altitude etc – everything normal, engine power and then the data just suddenly stopping.”


A source close to the investigation says early results suggest the plane was not struck from the outside. Theories of a bomb on board have been bolstered further, with infrared satellite images reportedly detecting a heat flash, when and where the crash happened. Aviation expert Gerard Feldzer agrees the possibility of a bomb can’t be ruled out.


“We can consider a terrorist attack with a bomb onboard. Because a missile is excluded – these people (Islamic State group) have neither the equipment nor the skills for that. But a bomb, which would have been introduced to the plane from checked bagage, is absolutely a possibility.”


The United States’ director of national intelligence, James Capper, said it’s too early to speculate on what may have caused the crash, and whether an IS affiliate group is to blame.


“Well, we don’t have any direct evidence of any terrorist involvement yet. ISIL in a Tweet claimed responsibility for it and there is a very aggressive ISIL chapter in the Sinai. But we really don’t know, and I think once the black boxes have been analysed, which they have recovered, then perhaps we will know more.”


Briefed by his transport minister, who had just arrived back from the crash site, Russian president Vladimir Putin offered condolences to victims’ families but no explanation.


“Without any doubt, everything has to be done to make sure we have an objective description of what happened. We have to know what happened and to react in the appropriate way.”


His team of investigators has widened its search in the Sinai Peninsula across 30 square kilometres. And as a second planeload of victims arrived in St Petersburg, the team vowed not to give up until all bodies are recovered.



The European Union and the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees say they will provide temporary accommodation for an extra 100,000 people in Greece and the Balkans.



But will they do it in time?


The refugee camp at Spielfeld, on the Austria-Slovenia border. Just across the border from the camp, on the Slovenian side, a family in flight from Iraq has arrived, much of the family cold and in soaking wet clothes. Their clothes hang drying on the fences in the sun.


At a recent European Summit in Brussels, leaders from Western Europe promised to provide accommodation for 100,000 people. But any day now, temperatures can plummet to well below freezing. Will the shelters be ready in time to head off a catastrophe?


Melita Sunjic is a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, working in Croatia.


“Of course, you couldn’t start from scratch. But if you have old, disused factory buildings or an old motel or something like that, then you can fairly quickly adapt it to the needs of short-term shelter.”

But it is more complicated than mere shelter.


More than 2,000 people recently spent a night in the open in Austria, one of the best-resourced countries in the region. In winter, such a situation could have tragic consequences.


On the Austria-Hungary border, Wolfgang Breuer, is helping refugees and migrants. He is from Intereuropean Human Aid, a group of volunteers organised via Facebook. As the days grow shorter and the nights colder, he worries about what might happen.


“We organise who can take some people with them and bring them to the right hotspots.* And by now, it’s a very bad situation, because the weather got bad. It’s rainy, and the people go down in the mud. Yeah, very bad now.”

Melita Sunjic spends many of her days in reception centres on the Serbia-Croatia border, where desperate people sometimes rush border posts they fear might suddenly close. She says they are reluctant to be taken to accommodation which is either off their route or in a country where they do not want to stay.


“They refuse to go into shelters, because they keep waiting at the borders, afraid that they will miss an opening of the border. We have people completely soaked. We have children, of course, wet and cold and cranky, people getting nervous, scuffles between the refugees, so this is always potentially a very dangerous situation, both for security and health-wise.”

Many in Europe expected the refugee and migrant flow to ease as temperatures dropped.

That has not happened.

Melita Sunjic says she has seen many refugee crises before this one but never one like this one.


“I see a lot of three-generation families. So, it would be a young couple with their children — very often, a pregnant mum — and they take the old grandmother or grandfather with them, in wheelchairs, people with one leg moving on … So there’s such a pressure, such a fear of staying where they were. And they tell horrible stories of what happened in their home-towns. So they really want to get to safety and start a new life.”


In the Spielfeld refugee centre, a man named Massoud is sitting in the open with his family as their clothes dry.


“Where are you from?”


“From Iraq. Where are you going?”

“In Allemagne.”

“To Germany.”

“Yes, Germany.”

“Is this your family?”

“Yes, family. Our family.”

“How many?”

“How many? Oh, uh … 14.”


Massoud’s family will soon make the one-kilometre walk to Austria, where they hope there will be a bus or train to take them to Germany. They have beaten winter but behind them are tens of thousands who might not.



He was there to oversee the selection process for 12,000 of the most vulnerable Syrian and Iraqi refugees who will come to Australia.


Mr Dutton says he found the visit confronting, but confirms the value of Australia’s strong border protection policies.


Jordan has provided refuge to some 600,000 Syrians, including 80,000 at the Za’atari refugee camp. At the camp Minister Dutton was briefed by the United Nations High Commission for Refugees and met some of the refugee families. He was particularly affected by seeing young children who have been caught up in the Syrian conflict.


“Well it’s confronting to say the least, to see right behind us that people are fleeing a terrible regime, people have been injured, people who have suffered serious blows from the war that in Australia we can’t really relate to. That is very confronting. The fact that the Jordanians right on the border opened their arms up to not only the refugees but also those people who have been seriously injured, is a great credit to this country.”


Mr Dutton said Australia has provided $200 million to the United Nations to help fund work in refugee camps. He says Australia has the most generous refugee resettlement program in the world, on a per capita basis.


“The 13,750 people that we settle each year, through the refugee and humanitarian programs, makes us the most generous settler on a permanent basis of people who are in need. Now in addition to that we have the provided the 12,000 places for these very desperate people that we have seen in the camps today, in the north of Lebanon and elsewhere, because we are a compassionate nation. But we have been very clear that we can only provide this dividend of refugee support if we have an orderly migration program, and I think that what we are seeing in Europe at the moment, what we are seeing across the Middle East, across parts of Africa and Asia as well, is that countries need to have an orderly migration program.”


Mr Dutton says his visit to the refugee camp confirms Australia made the right decision to resettle the 12,000 refugees. He is concerned that people who come to Australia under this measure are those most in need – and those who pass security checks.


“Well we need to be very careful about this because we do know and there is evidence that people are using documents fraudulently. We do know that the vast majority of people are doing the right thing and that they are legitimate Syrians in need of support. But from my perspective, we want to help those 12,000 Syrians, but from a national security will not be compromised. And I’ve been very clear in the past, and I’ll reinforce it today, that we will work with the United Nations and with the Jordanian Government as well and other partners to make sure we can establish the bone fides of those people that would seek to come.”


My Dutton said Australia is offering permanent places for more Syrians than most other countries.


“From north, south, east and west of our country, people want Syrians to start a new life in Australia, and the fact that we have a tough border policy in Australia means that we can offer a helping hand and a new life to those Syrians. I’m very proud of that, and what has been the lesson of today, it reinforces to me that we’ve made the right decision.”



Michelle Payne had that honour after steering long shot Prince of Penzance to a thrilling victory at Flemington.



This year’s Melbourne Cup was described by many experts as the most hard to predict in decades.


And for the first time in 50 years, the race would be run without the involvement of a certain Bart Cummings after the iconic trainer died in August. The famous trophy, won no less than 12 times by Bart, was brought on to the course by his son, Anthony, and grandson James. But once the 3,200-metre race was underway, the pre-race predictions of a wide open race rapidly became reality.


Michelle Payne, who rode Allez Wonder in 2009 for Bart Cummings, has made history of a different kind. Not for Cummings, but for sportswomen everywhere. And the pre-race favourite, Japanese entrant “Fame Game”, wasn’t even involved in the closing stages.


Victorian jockey Payne described her emotion at becoming the first woman jockey to win the world’s richest handicap race.


“You know its a very male-dominated sport and people think we’re not strong enough – you know what? It’s not all about strength. There’s so much more involved with getting the horse into a rhythm, it’s getting the horse to try for you, it’s being patient. We don’t get enough of a go and hopefully this will help.”


It was a first Cup victory also for winning trainer Darren Weir who was full of praise and thanks for her horsemanship and her family.


“Absolutely, couldn’t thank her enough. What a beautiful ride, what a great family. They’ve been terrific to me at Ballarat and I can’t thank them enough.”


The Paynes are a renowned racing family steeped in the sport. Michelle is one of 11 siblings with no less than eight of them – six girls and two boys – becoming jockeys. And at Flemington, she was well aware that her achievement could change the racing industry, and some views of what women jockeys are capable of.


Her message to all sportswomen is simply to “follow your dreams.”


“I gave myself a little bit of time last night before I went to sleep to think, if I won the Melbourne Cup what would I say? I thought, ‘Don’t be silly’ but it’s nice to dream and that’s what racing is all about: you can dream about anything.”


There was a sad footnote to the historic race.


Red Cadeaux, a three-time runner-up, had to be taken from Flemington to Werribee Vet hospital for surgery after damaging its leg during the race. Animal protesters were out in force during the day outside Flemington to make the point that as much of a spectacle as the race is, if Red Cadeaux dies, it will be the fourth horse to die in three Melbourne Cups.


But in years to come, today is more likely to be remembered as a Red Letter day for women’s sport in Australia.



A Sunshine Coast model has taken to YouTube and Instagram to challenge society’s obsession with social media.


Essena O’Neill, 19, who has been posting pictures to Instagram for four years, announced on YouTube she was “quitting social media”, including her Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube accounts.

She went through her Instagram account and deleted more than 2000 images of herself and edited the captions on others to reveal the story behind the image, writing that she was paid up to $2000 to promote some products.

“The reason why I quit social media was because for me, personally, it consumed me,” Miss O’Neill said in the video.

“I was living in a 2-D world.”

But Miss O’Neill said she came to realise she was “living a fake life” that promoted the message that women and girls needed to change their physical appearance to be accepted.

“Who told me as a young girl I needed to post a lot of body pictures to be of value?” she said in the video.

“Who told me I wasn’t enough without it, because that’s what I thought.”

Miss O’Neill also used the video to point out how wrong she thought it was that people listened to her because she had “won the genetic lottery”.

Miss O’Neill said she would spend hours scrolling through her posts to Instagram, Tumblr and YouTube, obsessing over the comments and likes the posts attracted.

She also used the video to expose the amount of money people on Instagram were being paid in supposedly candid photos.

“If you have a lot of followers and they’re tagging a brand in the photo, 98 per cent of the time it’s a paid post,” she said.

“And that’s not a bad thing, I’m not against making money off social media. I don’t think people realise how much money there is in social media.”

In her recaptioned Instagram posts, Miss O’Neill draws attention to the real story behind the photos, including whether it was a paid post and how the image was set up.

Miss O’Neill said she encouraged her social media followers to look at who they followed and consider what messages they were promoting and why they were following them.

“We are the youth, we are the future and if all our time is just comsumed by why people like us, or why people don’t like us, or how I can look better or how I can dress better – it doesn’t exist, it’s not even that important,” she said.

“What’s important is our ideas to innovate the future. Look at the world and think ‘I don’t like that, or I can’t accept that, I want to change that, I want to be the change’.”

She posted a statement to Instagram a week ago explaining her decision to quit social media:

“I’m quitting Instagram, YouTube and Tumblr. Deleted over 2000 photos here today that served no real purpose other than self promotion. Without realising, I’ve spent majority of my teenage life being addicted to social media, social approval, social status and my physical appearance. Social media, especially how I used it, isn’t real. It’s contrived images and edited clips ranked against each other. It’s a system based on social approval, likes, validation in views, success in followers. It’s perfectly orchestrated self absorbed judgement. I was consumed by it. I spent majority of my day aimlessly scrolling, hours on YouTube… How can we see ourselves and our true purpose/talents if we are constantly viewing others? Many of us are in so deep we don’t realise it’s delusional powers and the impact it has on our lives. There’s a select few photos I left here, half are original captions that I believe to be educational, the other half are photos that deluded you. It was never my conscious intention, but I deluded a lot of people…Call it deception, manipulation, lying, not saying the whole truth… I was both addicted to social approval and terrified no one would value me for myself. So I rewrote the captions of these false photos with short shots of reality. EVERYTHING EXPLAINED IN THE LINK IN MY BIO. There’s no likes or views or followers there. Just my content as raw as I want. It’s all going to be free of course. My main vegan videos will still be on YouTube, but vimeo will host all the new quality content. Made to help not to get views or $$$. How will I spread my message? Organically. If it moves someone, they tell their friends about it, simple as that. I’ll be talking about vegansim, creative imagery with purpose, poems, writing, interviews with people that inspire me, and of course the finical reality behind deluding people off Instagram…I was so caught up in it all. P.S when the new form of social sharing comes out, something that doesn’t revolve around likes and views but based on similar topics/quality for example, I will see you there, whenever that day comes…. We must create change.”


The Reserve Bank board has said today that it didn’t need to cut interest rates because economic conditions have improved, but at the same time, inflation is so low that if it needs to cut rates in the future it can.



It seems like the RBA has taken out some insurance to cover itself in case it does need to cut down the track, but on balance, a cut near term doesn’t look likely.


While the Australian economy is growing at a slower than normal pace, there are signs of improvement.

Businesses are borrowing more money to invest, the outlook for employment has improved, business and consumer confidence is also on the up.

The RBA noticed all this and said in its statement, “At today’s meeting the Board judged that the prospects for an improvement in economic conditions had firmed a little over recent months and that leaving the cash rate unchanged was appropriate at this meeting.”

It also acknowleged that house price growth has eased with risks contained.

Watch: Bank profit rise as house price growth eases in October

While mortgage holders may be feeling a little ripped-off because the banks have lifted variable rates, the reality is, Australians can afford higher rates.

Apart from increasing property values boosting wealth, Westpac CEO Brian Hartzer said yesterday that mortgage rates are at their lowest since 1968 and that 74 per cent of its customers are ahead on their repayments.

The Australian dollar has also become less of a headache for the Reserve, which says, “The Australian dollar is adjusting to the significant declines in key commodity prices.”

So, the RBA’s attention returns to inflation which is low. Very low. And it’s expected to stay that way. 

“Members also observed that the outlook for inflation may afford scope for further easing of policy, should that be appropriate to lend support to demand,” it says.

The underlying rate of inflation stands at 2.15 per cent, that’s at the bottom end of the RBA’s 2-3 per cent target band.

If inflation continues to ease, that could trigger a rate cut, because consumers will start to spend less.

Think of it this way.

You’re in the market for a new TV.

If prices rise too quickly, then you won’t buy one because it’s too expensive.

If prices fall, you might hold off on purchasing one because you’d assume it could be even cheaper further ahead.

That’s why you don’t want inflation to be too high, or too soft, but at a sustainable pace, which the RBA puts at 2-3 per cent.

There are challenges still ahead for the Australian economy as it continues its structural shift from mining to non-mining, especially as the housing market starts to slow down.

But an RBA cut right now could have spooked investors and confidence at a time when confidence is returning in the lead up to Christmas and after a leadership change.

The other major factor is America’s Federal Reserve. The world is waiting for when it begins lifting interest rates. 

When it does, there’ll be more support for the US currency and it should aid global confidence because higher interest rates are generally a sign of a growing economy.



He’s visiting the Marshall Islands and Kiribati with Deputy leader Tanya Plibersek and immigration spokesman Richard Marles.


The Labor trio met Marshall Islands President Christopher Loeak and Foreign Minister Tony de Brum, who says the risks posed to his country by climate change are clear for all to see.


“We’re standing right on top of the water literally and the vulnerability of these islands is well-known. We need not speak of that. What we need to speak about is what are we going to do about it, make sure that they remain a country come the mid-century or the end of the century.”


The challenges facing the Marshall Islands include simultaneous droughts and floods, salt inundation of freshwater areas, and rising sea levels forcing coastal communities to move further inland. The country’s 67,000 people rely on agriculture, fishing and tourism – industries all affected by climate change.

Mr De Brum says Australia’s role in the region is clear.


“We believe that a partnership with Australia taking the lead with climate change in the Pacific will result in a goal that will meet minimum requirements of survival.”


Labor leader Bill Shorten says it’s difficult to fully comprehend the effect of climate change on the Pacific without being there.


“We’re here because we know that the Pacific doesn’t stop at the equator. We’re here to see first-hand, as we form our policies on climate, to see first-hand the dreadful effects of the rising water levels, the food scarcity, the drought, the storm surges and the extreme weather events.”


Mr Shorten says Australia has a chance in Paris next month to take meaningful action and says Australia should be a voice for Pacific nations. Also on the tour is Deputy Opposition leader Tanya Plibersek who says she would like to see the current Australian government do more to reduce carbon pollution in Australia, believing this will have a knock-on effect in the region.


“Australia currently has unambitious targets when it comes to carbon pollution reduction. We believe that the current government should be more ambitious in setting its targets in Paris. We also believe that the current government should do more to invest in renewable energy in Australia. We know that renewables will be a big part of the solution for Australia and that’s why we’ve set our 50 per cent renewable energy target.”


The federal opposition leaders are visiting Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands and Kiribati at the same time as a visit from Steve Ciobo, the federal Minister for international development and the Pacific. He’s currently in Fiji looking at the outcomes of Australian aid funding in the Pacific, including climate change programs.





With almost all ballots counted, the AKP had taken just shy of 50 percent of the votes, comfortably enough to control a majority in the 550-seat parliament and a far higher margin of victory than even party insiders had expected.


Erdogan said the outcome was a vote for stability, and a message to Kurdish insurgents in the country’s restive southeast that violence could not coexist with democracy.

“The national will manifested itself on Nov. 1 in favour of stability,” Erdogan said in comments to reporters after praying at a mosque in Istanbul.

“Let’s be as one, be brothers and all be Turkey together.”

But in characteristically pugnacious form, he also attacked the global media and its criticism of him.

“Is this your understanding of democracy?” he said. “Now a party with some 50 percent in Turkey has attained power… This should be respected by the whole world, but I have not seen such maturity.”

Erdogan said earlier the outcome was also a message to Kurdish insurgents in the restive southeast that violence could not coexist with democracy.

Security forces have been battling militants of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeast in a renewed surge in violence since a ceasefire collapsed in July.

Prime Minister and AKP leader Ahmet Davutoglu tweeted simply “Elhamdulillah” (Thanks be to god), before emerging from his family home in the central Anatolian city of Konya to briefly address crowds of cheering supporters.

“Today is a victory for our democracy and our people … Hopefully we will serve you well for the next four years and stand in front of you once again in 2019,” he said.

At AKP headquarters in Ankara, under a sky lit by fireworks, he later urged Turkey’s political parties to work together on a new constitution, which Erdogan has said he would like to see include executive powers for the presidency.

A senior official from the main CHP opposition, which had calculated on ‘reining in’ Erdogan’s influence with a coalition government, described the result as “simply a disaster”.

The outcome could aggravate deep splits in Turkey between pious conservatives who champion Erdogan as a hero of the working class, and Western-facing secularists suspicious of his authoritarianism and Islamist ideals.

In the mainly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir, security forces fired tear gas at stone-throwing protesters after support for the pro-Kurdish opposition fell perilously close to the 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

In June, the AKP lost the overall majority it had enjoyed since 2002. Erdogan had presented Sunday’s polls as a chance to restore stability at a time of tension over Kurdish insurrection and after two bombings, attributed to Islamic State, while critics fear a drift to authoritarianism under the president.

“The election results show that our nation has sided with looking after the environment of stability and trust that was risked on June 7,” he said in a statement.

Since June’s poll, a ceasefire with Kurdish militants has collapsed, the war in neighbouring Syria has worsened and Turkey – a NATO member state – has been buffeted by two Islamic State-linked suicide bomb attacks that killed more than 130 people.

Investors and Western allies hoped the vote would help restore stability and confidence in an $800 billion economy, allowing Ankara to play a more effective role in stemming a flood of refugees from nearby wars via Turkey into Europe and helping in the battle against Islamic State militants.

Waiting for signs

With 99 percent of votes counted, the AKP was on 49.4 percent, according to state-run broadcaster TRT, giving it 316 of parliament’s 550 seats. The main opposition CHP was at 25.4 percent.

The lira currency firmed to its strongest in 2-1/2 months on the results. Investors had been pricing in a coalition, but the prospect of a strong stable government – even a polarising one – appeared to offer relief after months of uncertainty.

Erdogan’s crackdowns on media freedoms and tightening grip on the judiciary, following a corruption investigation that was shut down as an attempt to overthrow him, have alarmed European leaders. A large number of journalists and others have faced court proceedings for “insulting the president”.

Foreign capitals as well as Turkish media and other organisations will be watching closely for signs of whether a harsh climate will continue or government relaxes its grip.

Erdogan and the AKP have been fierce critics, for example, of U.S. support for Kurdish militia fighters battling Islamic State (IS) across Turkey’s border in Syria.

“This (result) makes more difficult a strategy of using the Kurds against IS because AKP appeals to anti-Kurd sentiments,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA analyst and sometime policy advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama.

The pro-Kurdish HDP, which scaled back its election campaign after its supporters were targeted in the Ankara suicide bomb attack that killed more than 100 people on Oct. 10, was on 10.7 percent, according to TRT. It won 13 percent in June.

The nationalist MHP, which was another casualty of the rise in AKP support, saw its share of the vote drop to 12 percent from 16.5 percent in June.

The election was prompted by the AKP’s inability to find a junior coalition partner after the June outcome. Erdogan’s critics said it represented a gamble by the combative leader to win back enough support so the party can eventually change the constitution and give him greater presidential powers.

Presidential republic

Erdogan, Turkey’s most powerful leader in generations, resigned as prime minister last year and became Turkey’s first directly elected president – with the aim of transforming it from a largely ceremonial position to a strong executive post.

The AKP still lacks a majority big enough to change the constitution. But being the sole party in power, Erdogan will be able to reassert his influence over government from the grandeur of his newly built presidential palace.

“Turkey lost considerable ground in economy, politics and terror during this period, and gains were lost. Voters appeared to want to bring back stability once again,” a second AKP official said.

Some Western allies, foreign investors and Turks had seen an AKP coalition with the CHP as the best hope of easing sharp divisions in the EU-candidate nation, hoping it might keep Erdogan’s authoritarian instincts in check.

“I’ve given up on the AKP. The honest party is the CHP. The country needs to heal its wounds,” said Yasar, a 62-year-old retired labourer now working as a shoeshine man outside a mosque in the conservative Istanbul district of Uskudar.

But across the Bosphorus in the city’s Tophane district, an AKP stronghold, teenagers with drums paraded in celebration. Cars honked their horns as passengers waved AKP flags.

“In June, people wanted to send a message to the AKP, but in fact the people got the message,” said Osman Aras, 35, a food merchant. “Without the AKP this country will sink into chaos. We need a strong government to guide us through these times.”