by News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
Under new system of government, Erdogan will wield sweeping executive powers
Turkish President Recep Tayyip ErdoganPhoto: AP
Turkish President Recep 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.
More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including 3 million expatriates, were eligible to vote. Early on Monday, Supreme Election Council Director Sadi Guven said 97.7% of the votes had been counted and declared Erdogan the winner.
Erdogan, who has never lost an election and has been in power since 2003 (first as prime minister), pledged Monday that there would be no retreat from his drive to transform Turkey, a deeply polarized nation that is both a NATO member and, at least nominally, a candidate to join the European Union.
Erdogan, 64, secured 52.5% of the votes in the presidential elections and his AK party won 42.5% of the votes in the parliamentary polls. It was boosted by its nationalist allies, which outstripped expectations and took 11.1%.
The president had faced a more robust, united opposition than ever before, with combative former teacher Muharrem Ince posing a threat throughout the campaign.
Ince won nearly 30.7% of the vote and the opposition initially claimed that there should be a second round of voting, but it eventually conceded defeat.
Erdogan has repeatedly cast his opponents as enemies of democracy, tapping into the groundswell of nationalist feeling that followed a failed coup in 2016.
"The nation has entrusted to me the responsibility of the presidency and the executive duty," Erdogan said in televised remarks from Istanbul.
"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. ... There is no stopping for us until we bring Turkey, which we saved from plotters, coupists and political and economic hitmen, street gangs and terrorist organizations, to among the top 10 economies in the world."
Later, in Ankara, he said, "This election's victor is democracy, this election's victory is national will."
He added that Turkey "will look at its future with so much more trust than it did this morning."
Erdogan also pledged to continue to "liberate Syrian lands" so that refugees can return to Syria safely.
The election was one of the most consequential votes in years, with a revitalized opposition unifying to challenge the incumbent president.
He will now wield sweeping executive powers under a new presidential system that curbs the authority of the parliament and the judiciary and that critics say entrenches one-man rule.
The new system empowers the president to appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget, and decide on security policies.
A loyal parliamentary majority could reduce checks and balances on the president's power unless the opposition can wield an effective challenge.
Critics warned that Erdogan's re-election would cement his already firm grip on power and embolden his increasingly autocratic tendencies.
Erdogan enjoys considerable support in the conservative and pious heartland, having empowered previously disenfranchised groups. From a modest background himself, he presided over an infrastructure boom that modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam's profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.
Critics say he has become increasingly autocratic and intolerant of dissent. The election campaign was heavily skewed in his favor, with opposition candidates struggling to get their speeches aired on television. Erdogan directly or indirectly controls most of the media in the country.
News Agencies and Israel Hayom Staff
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