Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is set to win another five years as Turkey̵7;s president, after prevailing in divisive elections that at one point seemed to threaten his grip on power.
The 69-year-old, who has dominated his country’s politics for two decades, was on course to win the run-off vote 52 percent to 48 percent, defeating opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, with more than 98 percent of ballot boxes counted, the country’s two main According to news agencies.
In the first round of voting on 14 May, the President also came out on top defying polls, but fell short of an outright majority, making the election a run-off.
Turkey’s Supreme Election Council – the country’s highest electoral authority – said that, with 75 percent of the votes counted, Erdoğan was leading with 53 percent, while Kilikdaroglu had received 47 percent.
The Government of Qatar and Prime Minister of Hungary Viktor Orban congratulated Erdoğan via Twitter.
Erdogan’s victory follows a campaign in which he accused his rival of links to terrorism and argued the country faced chaos when the six-party opposition coalition came to power.
He has ruled Turkey since 2003 as prime minister and then as president, and the election is widely seen as a defining moment for the country.
Erdogan’s supporters say he has strengthened the country, but his critics argue that his authoritarian approach to power is fatally undermining Turkey’s democracy.
Unlike earlier elections, in which the president and his Islamist-oriented AK party easily defeated their secular rivals, Erdoğan trailed in this May’s election.
His re-election campaign had to contend with economic problems such as painfully high inflation – currently 43 percent – and a weak currency, as well as the legacy of February’s devastating earthquake. At least 50,000 people died in the disaster and the government has been criticized for poor construction standards and its slow response.
But Erdoğan’s first round performance on 14 May put him five percentage points ahead of Kılıçdaroğlu and a few million votes short of an absolute majority.
The opposition candidate then shifted to a more nationalistic stance, pledging to deport millions of Syrians and Afghans, but this move ultimately proved unsuccessful. Nationalist candidate Sinan Ogan, who won 5 percent in the first round, then supported Erdogan, not Kılıçdaroğlu.
Political analysts say Erdogan’s victory highlights the polarization in Turkish society, particularly the divide between Islamists and secularists. While most of Turkey’s coastline, large cities and the largely Kurdish southeast voted for Kılıçdaroğlu, the heartlands strongly supported Erdoğan.
Opposition supporters also argue that the election reflected Erdoğan’s grip on power, including his near-total influence over the country’s media, which is largely controlled by groups friendly to the ruling party.
After Kılıçdaroğlu’s candidacy was endorsed by Turkey’s main pro-Kurdish party, Erdogan accused his rival of being in league with Kurdish militants, showing a doctored video in the closing days of the campaign to make his case.