Tayyip Erdogan Emerges Victorious in Turkey Elections

The opposition believed Erdogan could still fall short of the 50% needed to avoid a presidential runoff on 8 July.

Updated25 Jun 2018, 07:38 AM IST
World
4 min read

Turkey's Tayyip Erdogan emerged victorious on Monday from his biggest electoral challenge in a decade and a half, giving him the sweeping, executive powers he has long sought and extending his grip on the nation of 81 million until at least 2023.

The most popular – yet divisive – leader in modern Turkish history, Erdogan pledged there would be no retreat from his drive to transform Turkey, a deeply polarised nation that is both a NATO member and, at least nominally, a candidate to join the European Union.

Erdogan, 64, and his ruling AK Party on Sunday claimed victory in presidential and parliamentary polls, overcoming a revitalised opposition that in recent weeks had gained considerable momentum and looked capable of staging an upset.

He took 52.5 percent of the vote in the presidential race, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted. His AK Party took 42.5 percent in the parliamentary polls, and was boosted by its nationalist allies, which outstripped expectations and took 11.1 percent.

"It is out of the question for us to turn back from where we've brought our country in terms of democracy and the economy," Erdogan said in an address on Sunday.

“Erdogan’s Victory Will Further Entrench One-Man Rule”: Critics

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.

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

"This sets the stage for speeding up reforms," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek tweeted of the results.

In early trading in Asia the lira currency firmed modestly versus the dollar on hopes of a stable working relationship between president and parliament.

Opposition Doubts

Erdogan's main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince of the main opposition Republican People's Party (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.

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

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.

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 percent and its MHP ally 11 percent, based on 99 percent of votes counted, broadcasters said.

In the opposition camp, the CHP had 23 percent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 11 percent - above the threshold it needs to reach to enter parliament. The opposition nationalist İYİ (Good) party received 10 percent.

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

“New Powers Will Help Tackle Country’s Economic Woes”: Erdogan

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

Investors would welcome the prospect of a stable working relationship between the president and the new parliament, although they also have concerns about Erdogan's recent comments suggesting he wants to take greater control of monetary policy.

Erdogan has declared himself an "enemy of interest rates", raising fears he will pressure the central bank to cut borrowing costs after the election despite double-digit inflation.

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 that Erdogan blamed on his former ally, US-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.

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Published: 24 Jun 2018, 11:10 PM IST

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