Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won tightly-contested presidential polls, the election authority said on Monday, extending his 15-year grip on power as the opposition complained bitterly about the conduct of the vote count.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The stakes were particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers, without even a prime minister, under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan but which opponents say grants autocratic powers.
Erdogan defeated his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with an “absolute majority” of more than half the vote without needing a second round, said the chief of Turkey’s election authority, Sadi Guven.
“I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said in a victory address at his Istanbul residence, vowing that the new presidential system would be implemented “rapidly”.
“Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world,” he added, pointing to an 88 per cent turnout.
Erdogan won 52.5 per cent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31.5 per cent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 99 per cent vote count.
If confirmed, the figures would show Erdogan polling on a similar rating or even stronger than his 2014 election victory where he won his first mandate after over a decade as prime minister.
Celebrations erupted outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said. Erdogan flew in triumph to Ankara where he held his traditional victory speech from the balcony of AKP headquarters at 3:00 am (midnight GMT).
“The winner of this election is each and every individual among my 81 million citizens,” he declared. The usually loquacious Ince however remained silent, tweeting only that he would make a statement at 0900 GMT on Monday.