Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in Turkey's first popular vote for presidency. He pledged a new era for Turkey - likely to start with greater powers for what used to be a mainly ceremonial post.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan addressed supporters from his Justice and Development Party (AKP) headquarters in Ankara on Sunday night after winning the country's first direct presidential election in the first round.
"I thank everyone who appointed me the 12th president of the Turkish Republic," Erdogan said from the balcony. "Today it is not Recep Tayyip Erdogan who won this election; it is the national will, democracy. You did not choose a president through an intermediary, you chose him yourself."
Turkish presidents were previously appointed to the largely ceremonial post by parliament; Erdogan organized the direct presidential election with a view to broadening the powers of the presidency.
With the vast majority of votes counted, state-run news agency reported that Erdogan had won 51.95 percent of the vote. His main rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, had 38.34 percent and the third candidate, Kurdish politician Selahattin Demirtas, had 9.71 percent.
Ihsanoglu conceded defeat in a brief speech in Istanbul on Sunday evening.
"I hope that the result is beneficial for democracy in Turkey," Ihsanoglu said. "I congratulate the prime minister and wish him success."
Despite the AKP's superiority at the polls, Turkey - and especially Istanbul - has been restless under Erdogan
Official results were not expected until Monday, although the country's election authorities said Erdogan looked like the outright first-round winner. Erdogan's victory always appeared assured, either at the first round or in a runoff vote.
'New era' of 'reconciliation'
The three-term prime minister, head of Turkey's government since March 2003, called for a "new social reconciliation period" in his victory address, urging people to "leave the old discussions in the old Turkey."
"Today is a new day. Today is a milestone. Today is the day when a new Turkey is rising from the ashes," Erdgoan said.
Erdogan won Sunday's election outright despite ongoing corruption allegations against his government and family members, major public protests in Istanbul last year, and the long-running tensions with the Kurdish minority in the south of the country.
The conservative Islamist politician, who turned 60 earlier this year, will have to relinquish his prime minister's post in order to take up the presidency.
Turkey's previous president, Abdullah Gul, was one of the country's leaders most likely to speak out against Erdogan and the AKP's leadership; perhaps most amusingly when he criticized a recent Turkish ban on the social media website Twitter by voicing his objections on Twitter during the suspension.
msh/av (AP, Reuters, AFP)