Erdogan declares victory in historic Turkish elections

Istanbul, TurkeyRecep Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory in the country’s key presidential election, a result that will allow him to keep his seat with increased powers and become Turkey’s first executive president.

With nearly all of the votes counted, Erdogan secured an outright majority of 52.5 percent on Sunday, according to results released by state-run Anadolu Agency.

“Our people have given us the duty of carrying out the presidential and executive posts,” he said in a short televised speech, citing unofficial results.

The 64-year-old also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, a bloc between his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), saying they had won a parliamentary majority in the legislative , also held on Sunday.

Erdogan, who has ruled Turkey for more than 15 years as prime minister and president, later addressed a crowd of cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in the country’s largest city of Istanbul, before taking off to the capital, Ankara.

“I thank God for showing us this beautiful day,” Ahmet Dindarol, 35, told Al Jazeera, as he joined in the celebrations in front of the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul.

“We elected Recep Tayyip Erdogan as the first executive president of Turkey. We prayed so much for him,” he added.

“Things will get better from now on. There will be less bureaucracy and more investments. The foreign powers who are playing games on Turkey’s economy got their response,” he said.

Erdogan supporters celebrate in Istanbul [Cagan Orhon/Al Jazeera]

Erdogan’s closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), received 30.8 percent of the votes, according to Anadolu Agency.

He was followed by Selahattin Demirtas, of the pro-Kurdish Democratic People’s Party (HDP), at 8.1 percent and debutante right-wing IYI (Good) Party’s Meral Aksener, at 7.4 percent.

All three major opposition parties accused Anadolu Agency of manipulating the results and releasing them selectively, a claim dismissed by the government.

“I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure,” Erdogan said in his speech.

Official results are to be announced in a few days.

More than 56 million voters were eligible to cast their ballots in the elections, which were brought forward by more than 18 months by the AK Party-controlled parliament in April.

Turnout exceeded a massive 87 percent.

Twin polls

The voting marked the first time voters cast their ballots in simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with the constitutional changes approved in a referendum last year that will transform the country’s parliamentary system to an executive presidential one.

The new system is set to hand the next president significant executive powers, as well as abolish the prime ministry and remove the monitoring role of parliament, among others.

In the new era, the presidential office will have the power to appoint vice presidents, ministers, high-level officials and senior judges. The president will also be able to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose a state of emergency.

On the parliamentary front, Erdogan’s AK Party got 42.4 percent of the votes, while its far-right MHP secured 11.2 percent.

The two parties are predicted to claim 293 and 49 seats in the 600-member parliament respectively, with almost all of the ballot boxes opened, according to the Anadolu Agency. Erdogan was their joint presidential candidate.

A majority of 360 votes in parliament are required to take a constitutional change to referendum in the new executive presidential system.

The election will transform the way the country is run [Cagan Orhon/Al Jazeera]

The opposition CHP and IYI parties, along with the ultraconservative Felicity Party (SP), formed the diverse Nation Alliance to challenge Erdogan in the parliamentary polls.

According to Anadolu, the CHP acquired 22.7 percent of the ballots, while its ally, IYI Party got 10.1 percent. They are expected to have 146 and 45 seats in parliament.

The pro-Kurdish HDP is set to secure 66 seats after receiving 11.1 percent.

“The AK Party got around 42 percent of the votes, while Erdogan got around 52 percent. That 10 percent apparently came from his ally, MHP,” Mustafa Akyol, a Turkish columnist and analyst, told Al Jazeera.

“The results show that the AK Party-MHP alliance will have to continue for Erdogan to carry out his executive presidency comfortably,” he said.

“This makes the MHP an important party for the AK Party and Erdogan,” added Akyol. “It gives it a lot of power.”

Akyol also underlined that the fact that Ince secured a significantly higher percentage as a presidential candidate than the CHP in the parliamentary polls – about eight percentage points higher – “might open the way for him to become” the main opposition party’s chairman.

Erdogan entered the race in the face of a depreciating lira and straining relations with the West amid an ongoing state of emergency.

The state of emergency has been in place since July 2016 following a failed deadly coup blamed by the government on the movement of Fethullah Gulen, a US-based self-exiled religious leader.

Turkey’s Western allies have repeatedly condemned the Turkish government’s detentions and purges after the coup attempt.

Local and international rights groups accuse the government of using the coup bid as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.

Erdogan’s government says that the purges and detentions are in line with the rule of law and aim to remove Gulen’s supporters from state institutions and other parts of society.

Additional reporting by Cagan Orhon in Istanbul

Follow Umut Uras on Twitter @Um_uras

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