Erdogan wins re-election in historic Turkish polls

Erdogan becomes Turkey's first executive president after winning more than half the votes, election officials say.

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    Erdogan delivered a statement on national television from his official residence in Istanbul [Lefteris Pitarakis/AP]
    Erdogan delivered a statement on national television from his official residence in Istanbul [Lefteris Pitarakis/AP]

    Istanbul, Turkey - Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won the country's key presidential vote, electoral officials have said, in a result that will allow him to keep his seat with increased powers and become Turkey's first executive president.

    With 99.2 percent of ballots counted, Erdogan received on Sunday more than half the votes required to secure an outright victory, Sadi Guven, the head of the Supreme Election Committee (YSK), told reporters in the capital, Ankara.

    Earlier, state-run Anadolu news agency had reported that Erdogan's share of the vote stood at 52.5 percent.

    "Our democracy has won, the people's will has won, Turkey has won," Erdogan told a crowd of enthusiastic supporters in the capital, Ankara, thanking the Turkish citizens who cast their ballots in an election that saw a record turnout of 87 percent.

    The 64-year-old also declared victory for the People's Alliance, a bloc between his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying they had won a parliamentary majority in the legislative elections, also held on Sunday.

    Before heading to Ankara, Erdogan, who has governed Turkey for more than 15 years as prime minister and president, had also addressed a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in the country's largest city of Istanbul.

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    "I thank God for showing us this beautiful day," Ahmet Dindarol, 35, told Al Jazeera, as he joined in the celebrations in front of the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul.

    "We elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the first executive president of Turkey. We prayed so much for him," he added.

    "Things will get better from now on. There will be less bureaucracy and more investments. The foreign powers who are playing games on Turkey's economy got their response," he said.

    Erdogan supporters celebrate in Istanbul [Cagan Orhon/Al Jazeera]

    Erdogan's closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), received 30.6 percent of the votes, according to Anadolu.

    He was followed by Selahattin Demirtas, of the pro-Kurdish Democratic People's Party (HDP), at 8.4 percent and debutante right-wing IYI (Good) Party's Meral Aksener, at 7.3 percent.

    At a press briefing on Monday, Ince conceded defeat, however, called the elections "unjust" and the executive presidential system a dangerous "one-man rule".

    "I accept these election results," Ince said, adding Erdogan should "represent 80 million" and be "president for us all".

    But Ince, who had faced limited airtime on television in the campaign and a near boycott by state media, said the run-up to the election had been unfair.

    "This election was unjust until the results were announced," he told a news conference at CHP headquarters after ordering out crews from state-run TRT over their campaign coverage.

    Ince vowed to "continue our fight until Turkey is a Turkey for everyone", expressing alarm over the powers Erdogan assumes under the new system which he described as "a one-man regime".

    All three major opposition parties accused Anadolu of manipulating the results and releasing them selectively, a claim dismissed by the government.

    "I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure," Erdogan said in his speech.

    Official results are to be announced in a few days.

    More than 56 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots in the elections, which were brought forward by more than 18 months by the AK Party-controlled parliament in April.

    Twin polls

    The voting marked the first time Turkish voters cast their ballots in simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with the constitutional changes approved in a referendum last year that will transform the country's parliamentary system to an executive presidential one.

    The new system is set to hand the next president significant executive powers, as well as abolish the prime ministry and remove the monitoring role of parliament, among others.

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    In the new era, the presidential office will have the power to appoint vice presidents, ministers, high-level officials and senior judges. The president will also be able to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose a state of emergency.

    On the parliamentary front, Erdogan's AK Party got 42.4 percent of the votes, while its far-right MHP secured 11.2 percent.

    The two parties are predicted to claim 293 and 50 seats in the 600-member parliament respectively, with almost all of the ballot boxes opened, according to Anadolu. Erdogan was their joint presidential candidate.

    A majority of 360 votes in parliament are required to take a constitutional change to a referendum in the new executive presidential system.

    The election will transform the way the country is run [Cagan Orhon/Al Jazeera]

    The opposition CHP and IYI parties, along with the ultraconservative Felicity Party (SP), formed the diverse Nation Alliance to challenge Erdogan in the parliamentary polls.

    According to Anadolu, the CHP acquired 22.7 percent of the ballots, while its ally, IYI Party got 10.1 percent. They are expected to have 146 and 45 seats in parliament.

    The pro-Kurdish HDP set to secure 67 seats after receiving 11.1 percent.

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    "The AK Party got around 42 percent of the votes, while Erdogan got around 52 percent. That 10 percent apparently came from his ally, MHP," Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish columnist and analyst, told Al Jazeera.

    "The results show that the AK Party-MHP alliance will have to continue for Erdogan to carry out his executive presidency comfortably," he said.

    "This makes the MHP an important party for the AK Party and Erdogan," added Akyol. "It gives it a lot of power."

    Akyol also underlined that the fact that Ince secured a significantly higher percentage as a presidential candidate than the CHP in the parliamentary polls - about eight percentage points higher - "might open the way for him to become" the main opposition party's chairman.

    Erdogan entered the race in the face of a depreciating lira and straining relations with the West amid an ongoing state of emergency.

    The state of emergency has been in place since July 2016 following a failed deadly coup, which the government blamed on the movement of Fethullah Gulen - a US-based self-exiled religious leader.

    Turkey's Western allies have repeatedly condemned the Turkish government's detentions and purges after the coup attempt.

    Local and international rights groups accuse the government of using the coup bid as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.

    Erdogan's government says that the purges and detentions are in line with the rule of law and aim to remove Gulen's supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.

    Additional reporting by Cagan Orhon in Istanbul

    Follow Umut Uras on Twitter @Um_uras

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera News


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