Erdogan set for victory in presidential poll

Turkish state media says prime minister has taken 53 percent of the vote after 90 percent of ballots have been counted.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is leading with 53 percent of the vote in Turkey’s presidential election with 90 percent of the ballots counted, the country’s semi-official news agency has said. 

Erdogan is looking to extend his more than 10 years in power in the culturally divided nation, with his main opponent Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a conservative academic and diplomat who used to lead the Organisation of Islamic Co-operation, hoping to score a surprise victory.

Selahattin Demirtas, a senior figure among Turkey’s Kurdish minority, is the third presidential candidate. He is supported by the People’s Democracy Party (HDP), a pro-minority rights party supported primarily by Kurdish Turks. 

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At 6:30pm local time (15:30 GMT) on Sunday, Erdogan had received 53 percent of the votes, with Ihsanoglu on 38 percent and Demirtas taking 8.35 percent after 90 percent of the votes had been counted, the semi-official Anatolia news agency said.

For the first time in Turkey’s history, the president is being elected by a popular vote, in line with a constitutional amendment adopted in 2007. About 53 million voters in the country of 76 million were eligible to cast their ballots.

Ihsanoglu is supported by the left-leaning secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the two largest opposition parties in the country, in addition to various smaller ones. 

However, Ihsanoglu is a largely unknown figure among the Turkish public.

Erdogan and Ihsanoglu cast their vote in Istanbul, Turkey’s financial centre and largest city, while Demirtas cast his in Diyarbakir, the main Kurdish city in southeast of the country.

AK Party local victories

The presidential vote takes place just three months after Erdogan’s ruling conservative Justice and Development Party’s (AK Party) scored a landslide win in local elections.

The local elections were held in a tense political climate amid new internet controls, frequent anti-government protests and allegations of corruption surrounding Erdogan’s government.

However, the prime minister’s popularity seems unscathed by the developments and he has made little secret of his desire to see the largely ceremonial role imbued with far greater clout if he wins.

During his campaign, Erdogan has talked about infrastructure projects, foreign policy actions, economic reforms, and a new constitution featuring a presidential system, promising a more active presidency, a position which is highly symbolic in Turkish politics.

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Conversely, Ihsanoglu has stressed “unity” and “neutrality”, drawing a more traditional and passive picture for his potential presidency.

Since founding the AK Party in 2001, Erdogan has overseen unprecedented growth and stability after a long period of economic chaos and political drift.

However, secular opponents see him as an authoritarian and highly conservative leader, who can tighten his grip on the country if he takes the seat as president. 

Unless a candidate receives more than 50 percent support in the first round, a runoff vote will be held on August 24 between the top two candidates.