Turkey's Erdogan claims victory in presidential election
With over 95% of the vote counted, Erdogan set to extend his 15-year rule; his party is also leading the pack in the parliamentary vote; opposition says still too early to concede defeat as the Turkish president could still fall short of 50% of votes needed to avoid second round.
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory in Sunday's presidential election and said his ruling AK Party and its alliance partner had won a parliamentary majority.
However, the main opposition party said it was too early to concede defeat and said it believed Erdogan could still fall short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff on July 8.
"Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts," he said in a short speech from Istanbul.
"I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure."
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.
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.
In early trading in Asia the lira currency firmed modestly against the dollar on the prospect of increased political stability.
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 96 percent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 53 percent, comfortably ahead of Ince on 31 percent, broadcasters said.
In the parliamentary contest, the Islamist-rooted AK Party had 43 percent and its MHP ally 11 percent, based on 98 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 HDP's presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, has waged his election campaign from a prison near the Greek border as he awaits trial on terrorism-related charges, which he denies. He had 7 percent, based on 90 percent of votes cast.
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.
Opposition parties and NGOs have deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against possible electoral fraud. They have said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raise fears about the fairness of Sunday's elections.
Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.
"Turkey is staging a democratic revolution," he told reporters after casting his own vote in Istanbul on Sunday.
"With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations."
Erdogan argues the 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 neighboring 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 reckoned without Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanized Turkey's long-demoralized and divided opposition.
Turkey held Sunday's elections under a state of emergency declared after a failed military coup in July 2016. This state restricts some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees. Erdogan has said he will lift the state of emergency.
Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on his followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.
The president's critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent.
Erdogan says his tough measures are needed to safeguard national security.