Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared himself the winner of a high-stakes election, in which he sought to cement his power on the nation he has ruled for 15 years.
But the opposition has cried foul, claiming that state media and the election commission have manipulated the results.
The election commission is expected to announce official results later Sunday. If Erdogan’s victory is officially confirmed, he will gain sweeping new powers when he resumes office. He narrowly won a referendum last year to transform the country’s parliamentary system to a powerful executive presidency, in what his critics called a blatant power grab.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan casts his vote in Istanbul on Sunday.
“Citizens have cast their votes and spoken clearly,” Erdogan said in a victory speech in Istanbul.
“We will do more for the nation. The ongoing quarrels that took place during the campaign, we will now have to leave them behind and start serving the nation.”
State news agency Anadolu — the only distrubutor of the election commission’s results — reported that the President had sailed through the snap vote at 52.7%, with more than 96% of the ballots counted. But main opposition candidate Muharrem Ince and his Republican People’s Party (CHP) said that around half the ballot boxes had not yet been counted, calling on party monitors to stay by the ballot boxes and keep watching.
A spokesman for Erodgan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), Mahir Unal, dismissed the accusations and warned party leaders of “harsh outcomes” to any provocations.
Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics since his rise as prime minister in 2003 and has transformed the nation. He implemented policies that encouraged sustained economic growth and development, he challenged Turkey’s secular foundations by bringing Islamic conservatism to public life and he gutted public institutions by having tens of thousands of people — many of them his critics — arrested following a failed military coup in 2016.
Candidate Muharrem Ince votes in the northwestern city of Yalova on Sunday.
Erdogan himself called the snap elections 18 months early, as he faces battles on several fronts: Turkish voters are feeling the pain of soaring inflation, a plunging currency and high interest rates as the economy falters, and the normally splintered opposition is largely united against him for the first time in years. By offering a wider than usual range of presidential candidates, the opposition had hoped to split the vote enough ways to leave the frontrunner with less than 50% of the ballots.
Erdogan has sailed through several elections to become Turkey’s longest-serving leader, but a strong campaign by Ince triggered speculation the President may fail to win outright.
Some 59 million people were eligible to vote in both presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday.