ANKARA: Recep Tayyip Erdogan secured his place in history as Turkey’s first directly elected president yesterday, sweeping more than half the vote in a result his opponents fear heralds an increasingly authoritarian state.
Supporters honking car horns and waving flags took to the streets in the capital Ankara after Turkish television stations said Erdogan, the prime minister for more than a decade, had won 51.8 percent of the vote, 13 points more than his closest rival and avoiding the need for a second round runoff.
The chairman of the High Election Board confirmed Erdogan had a majority, with more than 99 percent of votes counted, and said full provisional figures would be announced today.
“The people have shown their will,” Erdogan, 60, told a cheering crowd at a convention centre in Istanbul.
He stopped short of declaring outright victory in the first general election for Turkey’s head of state, a post previously chosen by parliament. But at the headquarters in the capital Ankara of his AK Party, a balcony was being prepared and thousands of followers were already gathered below to hear him.
Turkey has emerged as a regional economic force under Erdogan, who has ridden a wave of religiously conservative support to transform the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk on the ruins of the Ottoman empire in 1923.
But his critics warn that a President Erdogan, with his roots in political Islam and intolerance of dissent, would lead the NATO member and European Union candidate further away from Ataturk’s secular ideals. If his victory is confirmed, Erdogan will be sworn in as president on August 28. The ruling AK Party was to begin meeting shortly to start deciding on candidates to replace him as premier and party leader. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is seen as a leading candidate.
Erdogan’s main rival in Sunday’s election, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, a former diplomat and academic who won 38.5 percent of the vote according to broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV, congratulated Erdogan on the result in a brief statement.
Selahattin Demirtas took 9.7 percent, according to the TV stations.