Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday declared victory in tightly-contested presidential and parliamentary elections, extending his 15-year grip on power.
However, the opposition complained bitterly about the conduct of the vote count.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
The stakes were particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan but which opponents say grant autocratic powers.
Erdogan was on course to defeat his nearest rival Muharrem Ince with more than half the vote without needing a second round, initial results showed.
“The unofficial results of the elections have become clear. According to these… I have been entrusted by the nation with the task and duties of the presidency,” Erdogan said in a victory address at his Istanbul residence.
“Turkey has given a lesson in democracy to the entire world,” he added, pointing to an 88 percent turnout.
Erdogan won 52.5 percent in the presidential poll while Ince, of the secular Republican People’s Party (CHP), was on 31 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 98 percent vote count.
The figures could yet change as final ballot boxes are opened. But if confirmed, the figures would show Erdogan polling on a similar rating or even stronger than his 2014 election victory where won his first mandate after over a decade as prime minister.
Celebrations erupted outside Erdogan’s residence in Istanbul and AKP headquarters in Ankara, with crowds of flag-waving supporters, AFP correspondents said.
Trailing were Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) with over eight percent in third and Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent.
Erdogan also declared victory in the parliamentary election saying that the alliance led by the AKP and its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies had won the majority in parliament.
A count of almost over 97 percent showed that Erdogan’s AKP and the MHP would win 293 and 49 seats respectively, enough for an easy majority in the 600-member chamber.
The HDP was polling 11.5 percent, well over the 10 percent minimum threshold needed, to win 67 seats which would make the party the second largest opposition faction in the new chamber.
Celebrations erupted in the Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, with people letting off fireworks into the sky, AFP correspondents said.
Its success is all the more remarkable given the HDP’s Demirtas has campaigned from a jail cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militant.