Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims election victory

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims election victory

Kristen McTighe, Special to USA TODAY
Published 5:12 p.m. ET June 24, 2018 | Updated 5:13 p.m. ET June 24, 2018

ISTANBUL – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared he won re-election in Sunday’s high-stakes vote that solidifies his expanded powers, as his opposition disputed the results reported by state-run media.

“With almost 90 percent turnout rate in the elections, Turkey has given a very good democracy lesson to all the world,” Erdogan said Sunday night while addressing the nation.

Erdogan, 64, also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, an electoral cooperation between his ruling Justice and Development Party and the small Nationalist Movement Party, saying they had a “parliamentary majority” in the 600-member assembly.

After Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency reported that Erdogan quickly held a commanding lead, state broadcaster TRT announced Erdogan the winner of the presidency with 52.7 percent of the vote and his party’s electoral alliance won a majority in parliament.

Erdogan needed more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff next month.

The main opposition candidate, Muharrem Ince of the People’s Republican party, contested the tally reported by the pro-government Anadolu, saying fewer ballot boxes had actually been counted and accusing the agency of “manipulation” of the results.

People’s Republican Party spokesman Bulent Tezcan accused Anadolu of making up numbers for the results. “There is a high probability the presidential election will go to a second round,” he said.

The elections for both president and parliament complete Turkey’s transformation from a parliamentary to presidential system of government that grants sweeping powers to the president, who previously was a figurehead. The switch was approved in a referendum last year.

Turkey’s opposition leaders, who defied predictions and mounted a fierce campaign against Erdogan and his ruling party, framed the elections as a choice between democracy and further authoritarian rule. 

After the failed military coup in 2016, tens of thousands of government opponents have been jailed, more than 100,000 people have been fired or suspended from government positions, and Turkey has become the top jailer of journalists in the world.

Sunday’s vote took place under a state of emergency, and Erdogan’s allies control around 90 percent of the country’s media.

More: ‘One-man rule?’ Why the Turkey elections matter to the US

More: Why Turkey elections could be President Tayyip Recep Erdogan’s biggest power grab yet

Selahattin Demirtas, the presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, campaigned from a prison cell where he has been jailed for nearly two years on charges he says are politicized.

“On one side there is a government that is threatening the republic, and on the other side there are people who are trying to defend and safeguard it,” said Turgut Apaydin, 44, an actor in Istanbul who voted for Ince, the fiery candidate from the opposition People’s Republican party. “If Erdogan wins, there are going to be a lot of problems in the country. Oppression will increase.”   

While opponents of the president decried a growing authoritarian rule, his supporters said Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003 as prime minister and then president, has transformed the country and could bring unity and stability if granted sweeping powers.

“You cannot explain how important this election is. Its importance is as high as the Himalayas,” said Murat Toprak, 44, who voted for Erdogan and his ruling party. “The unity and future of our country is at stake.”

 

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