World

Erdogan wins another term as Turkey's president, election board says

Turkey's national electoral board has pronounced incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the winner of the country's presidential election with an "absolute majority" of valid votes.

Victory paves the way for longtime leader to make use of expanded executive powers

A supporter of the AK Party holds a picture of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan outside the party's headquarters in Istanbul on Sunday. (Huseyin Aldemir/Reuters)

Turkey's national electoral board has pronounced incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the winner of the country's presidential election with an "absolute majority" of valid votes.

Speaking early Monday, the head of the Supreme Election Council said 97.7 per cent of votes had been counted. Sadi Guven said the remaining votes would not affect the outcome of Erdogan's re-election.

The vote also ushered in an executive presidency system, giving Erdogan sweeping new powers.

Guven also announced that unofficial results showed five parties had passed the 10 per cent election threshold required to enter parliament.

They are Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AK Party), its allied Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the main secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and the centre-right Good Party.

​"Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts," Erdogan said in a short speech in Istanbul. "I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure."

Erdogan, 64, the most popular but also the most divisive politician in modern Turkish history, later waved to cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in Istanbul.

Sunday's vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.

Erdogan's victory paves the way for another five-year term, and under the new constitution he could serve a further term from 2023, taking him to 2028.

'Speeding up reforms'

An unexpectedly strong showing by the AK Party's alliance partner, the nationalist MHP, could translate into a stable parliamentary majority Erdogan seeks to govern freely.

"This sets the stage for speeding up reforms," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek said on Twitter.

Erdogan's main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince of the main opposition CHP urged election monitors to remain at polling stations to help ensure against possible election fraud, as final results came in from large cities where his party typically performs strongly.

Muharrem Ince, the candidate for Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, called on citizens 'to not abandon the ballot boxes' as polls closed in critical dual presidential and parliamentary elections. (Ali Unal/Associated Press)

With 99 per cent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 52.5 per cent, well ahead of Ince on 31 per cent, broadcasters said Sunday.

The opposition raised doubts about the accuracy and reliability of the figures released by state-run Anadolu news agency, the sole distributor of the official vote tally.

However, an opposition platform collating its own vote tally from monitors based at polling stations around the country broadly confirmed the Anadolu figures.

Fears of voting violations

Opposition parties and NGOs had deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against possible electoral fraud. They said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raised fears about the fairness of Sunday's elections.

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.

In Sunday's parliamentary contest, the Islamist-rooted AK Party won 42 per cent and its MHP ally 11 per cent, based on 99 per cent of votes counted, broadcasters said.

In the opposition camp, the CHP had 23 per cent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party 11 per cent — above the threshold it needs to reach to enter parliament.

Election turnout nationwide was very high at around 87 per cent for both contests, the state broadcaster said.

Erdogan argues that his new powers will better enable him to tackle the nation's economic problems — the lira has lost 20 per cent against the dollar this year — and crush Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

State of emergency

He brought forward the elections from November 2019, but he faced an unexpectedly feisty challenge from Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, who galvanized Turkey's long-demoralised and divided opposition.

Turkey held Sunday's elections under a state of emergency declared after a failed military coup in July 2016 Erdogan blamed on his former ally, U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen.

It limits some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees, though Erdogan says he will soon lift the measure. 

Since the coup attempt Erdogan has waged a sweeping crackdown on Gulen's followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.

Critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent. He says his tough measures are needed to safeguard national security. 

With files from The Associated Press

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