Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has won Turkey’s run-off presidential election to seal another five-year term, according to official preliminary results that marked an end to a determined opposition effort to unseat the longtime leader.
Erdoğan received 53.41% of the votes, electoral chief Ahmet Yener said on Sunday evening, after 99.43% of the ballots had been counted.
His rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu received 46.59% according to the preliminary figures, Yener said.
Erdoğan – who claimed victory hours before the official announcement – can now remain in his seat for another five years and for a third time. The 69-year-old became prime minister in 2003. The parliament voted him as president in 2014.
“You gave us this mission. We will continue to build a Turkish century all together,” he told a massive crowd from the balcony of the presidential palace in Ankara. “All of Turkey has won. Democracy has won,” he said, urging the country to unite.
The crowd cheered and taunted his rival, chanting: “Bye bye, Kemal.”
During the evening, Erdoğan supporters lined the streets of cities in Turkey and beyond, waving flags and celebrating.
Since the introduction of a presidential system in 2018, he has more power than ever before, prompting fears his rule could become even more authoritarian.
Kılıçdaroğlu, who stood against him at the head of a broad coalition of opposition parties, thanked his supporters before the results were announced, but did not formally concede.
“I am sad much bigger problems await our country,” he said.
He decried the problems in an election campaign that was criticized by observers as being unfair, given the government’s dominance of the media landscape.
Erdoğan controls almost the entire conventional media in Turkey. State broadcaster TRT did not broadcast a single interview with any opposition leader, for example.
Erdoğan refused to appear in any televised debate with Kılıçdaroğlu.
“The people’s will to replace an authoritarian regime has emerged despite all repressions in this election,” said Kılıçdaroğlu.
“Stand tall,” he added. “We will work for more democratic Turkey.”
His comments were echoed by Meral Akşener, the main opposition partner, who did concede.
Those who had hoped for change should not despair, she said. “We are here,” she said, adding she hoped Erdoğan would remember he is president of all of Turkey.
Sunday’s voting was marred by reports of attacks on election observers in Istanbul and the south-east of the country.
Istanbul lawmaker Ali Şeker, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), told broadcaster Halk TV that he and two others were attacked by a large group of locals after they complained about irregularities.
Earlier, CHP parliamentary group leader Özgür Özel tweeted that election observers were beaten and their phones were broken.
Özel complained that there were not enough security forces present at the time.
There were several incidents in Istanbul, according to media reports. Halk TV reported that opposition election workers were attacked in the Gaziosmanpaşa and Ümraniye districts.
Not all incidents could be independently verified.
Even before the preliminary results were announced, congratulations flowed in from abroad.
The leaders of Russia, France, Pakistan, Libya, and Afghanistan all sent messages of support to Erdoğan.
Later, European and U.S. leaders added their congratulations.
“I look forward to working with you again to deepen EU-Türkiye relations in the years to come,” the president of the European Council, Charles Michel, wrote to Erdoğan in a tweet.
“It is of strategic importance for both the EU and Türkiye to work on advancing this relationship, for the benefit of our people,” echoed European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.
“Germany and Turkey are close partners and allies,” wrote German Chancellor Olaf Scholz. “Congratulations to President Erdoğan on his re-election. Now we want to push forward our common issues with fresh vigour.”
French President Emmanuel Macron listed the return of peace to Europe, the future of the Euro-Atlantic alliance and the Mediterranean as some of the “immense challenges” ahead.
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky shared his congratulations to the Turkish president in both Ukrainian and Turkish on Twitter.
“I congratulate the President of Turkey @RTErdogan on the occasion of the victory in the presidential elections,” wrote Zelensky in a tweet.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg also offered congratulations to Erdoğan. In a tweet, Stoltenberg wrote, “Congratulations President @RTErdogan on your re-election. I look forward to continuing our work together & preparing for the #NATOSummit in July.”
U.S. President Joe Biden offered congratulations and said, “I look forward to continuing to work together as NATO Allies on bilateral issues and shared global challenges” in a tweet.
Many in Turkey had hoped for change, but were in the end outnumbered, with Erdoğan particularly popular among rural and more religious voters.
Ergün Sabancılar, a 67-year-old artisan, said just after casting his ballot: “I have hope. If not with this election, democracy will definitely come with future elections.”
The run-off, the first in modern Turkish history, was a test of strength for Erdoğan after he failed to get the absolute majority needed in the first round of the vote two weeks ago.
During the campaign, Erdoğan had promised to increase religious conservative policies such as restricting LGBT rights.
He said he would quickly reconstruct the quake-hit provinces while boosting investments in defence and infrastructure.
He repeated some of these promises on Sunday, saying that he would bring inflation down to 10% in a new “economic leap forward.”
The vote came amid Turkey’s worst economic crisis in two decades and after February’s devastating earthquakes in the country’s east.
Analysts pointed to election gifts in the run-up to the vote, saying these too had an impact on Sunday’s result.
“The government spent money like there was no tomorrow.
“People are much better off as a result than they were last year,” analyst Salim Cevik told dpa.
Cevik also criticised the opposition, saying the broad coalition had not nominated its lead candidate soon enough in the process. (dpa/NAN)