Times of Oman
Nov 30, 2015 LAST UPDATED AT 05:47 PM GMT
Erdogan ‘wins’ Turkey presidential elections
August 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is the front-runner in Turkey's presidential election, casts his vote at a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. AP/PTI

Istanbul: Tayyip Erdogan has become Turkey's first popularly-elected head of state after winning a presidential election on Sunday, Justice Minister Bekir Bozdag said on his Twitter account.

"The chairman of the AK Party and the prime minister of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has become the first president elected by the people," Bozdag wrote.

His office confirmed the message was published on his official account. Tayyip Erdogan won the election with just over 52 per cent of the vote, Mustafa Sentop, deputy chairman of the ruling AK Party, said.

However, Turkey's electoral authorities are not officially due to announce their first results until today, with final figures due later in the week, but Erdogan, 60, is expected to make a victory address later on Sunday.

The polls are the first time Turkey — a member of Nato and longtime hopeful to join the EU — has directly elected its president, who was previously chosen by parliament, and Erdogan is hoping for a massive show of popular support.

"Our people will make an important decision for Turkish democracy," said Erdogan as he cast his vote in Istanbul alongside his wife Emine and two daughters and two sons.

Erdogan indicated that he planned to revamp the post to give the presidency greater executive powers, which could see Turkey shift towards a system more like that of France if his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is able to change  the constitution.

"This decision has significance in that an elected president, hand-in-hand with an elected government, will lead Turkey to 2023... in a determined fashion," he said.

If Erdogan serves two presidential terms, he will stay in office to 2024 and already appears to be planning to preside over celebrations in 2023 for 100th anniversary of the foundation of the modern Turkish state.

Erdogan's opponents accuse him of undermining the secular legacy of Turkey's founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established a strict separation between religion and politics when he forged the new state from the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.

"A ballot paper with only one name does not represent the democracy, it does not suit Turkey," said Ihsanoglu, 70, as he cast his ballot in Istanbul.

He complained that the campaign had been "unfair, disproportionate", nonetheless predicting that the votes of the "silent masses" would help him to victory.

"I voted for Erdogan because I believe he is the only leader who can run the country properly. He has helped feed the poor and reached out to a larger section of our society," Zahide, 52, a retired nurse, after voting in Istanbul.

But Ozlem, 24, a university student, said she voted for Ihsanoglu. "Our country is at a turning point. It's either democracy or dictatorship. Everyone should come to their senses."

The third candidate Demirtas, 41, from Turkey's Kurdish minority, hoped to attract votes not just from Kurds but also secular Turks with a left-wing, and pro-women's rights message.

"Today is a beginning. It is a beginning for all those oppressed, marginalised, those earning their bread by the sweat of their brow," he said as he cast his vote in the city of Diyarbakir.

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