Erdogan wins Turkish election, extending rule to third decade

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won Turkey’s presidential election, defeating opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Sunday’s runoff vote and stretching his rule into a third decade.

With 99.43% of the votes counted, preliminary official results announced by Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) on Sunday showed Erdogan winning with 52.14% of the votes. Kilicdaroglu received 47.86%.

Speaking to thousands of his supporters outside the presidential complex in Ankara, Erdogan said that now was the time to “put aside all the debates and conflicts regarding the election period and unite around our national goals and dreams.”

“We are not the only winners, the winner is Turkey. The winner is all parts of our society, our democracy is the winner,” Erdogan said.

Erdogan said among the government’s main priorities would be fighting inflation and healing the wounds from a catastrophic earthquake on February 6 which claimed more than 50,000 lives in Turkey and neighboring Syria.

Speaking at his party headquarters in the capital Ankara, Kilicdaroglu said he would continue to fight until there is “real democracy” in Turkey.

“This was the most unfair election period in our history… We did not bow down to the climate of fear,” he said. “In this election, the will of the people to change an authoritarian government became clear despite all the pressures.”

Kilicdaroglu said what “truly makes me sad is the hard days ahead for our country.”

Foreign leaders including those of Russia, Qatar, Libya, Algeria, Hungary, Iran and the Palestinian Authority were among the first to congratulate Erdogan.

In remarks published on the Kremlin’s website, Russian President Vladimir Putin said the election provided “clear evidence of the Turkish people’s support” for Erdogan’s efforts “to strengthen state sovereignty and pursue an independent foreign policy.”

US President Joe Biden also congratulated Erdogan, tweeting that he looked forward to working together “as NATO allies” on “bilateral issues and shared global challenges.”

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Erdogan’s supporters gathered In Istanbul’s Taksim Square, chanting his name and “God is great.”

Hundreds gathered outside the Istanbul headquarters of the ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party after preliminary results showed Erdogan in the lead. Some came with children while others waved flags, honked car horns and set off flares and fireworks.

Speaking outside party headquarters amid the celebrations, Erdogan supporter Denel Anart said: “I hope he lives forever.”

“He is my father, grandfather, uncle. He is my everything,” Anart said.

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