Erdogan set to be Turkey's first elected president
Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set to be Turkey's next president after local media credited the veteran prime minister with more than half the vote, with nearly all the ballots counted.
After an election yesterday that his opponents say may create an increasingly authoritarian state, broadcasters said Mr Erdogan had 52.3pc of the vote, 13 points more than his closest rival. Such a result would rule out a runoff round and seal Mr Erdogan's place in history as Turkey's first directly elected head of state, a role expected to enhance his power.
Parliament has in the past chosen the head of state but this was changed under a law pushed through by Mr Erdogan's government.
The main opposition candidate, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, congratulated Mr Erdogan (60) in a concession speech in Istanbul. Mr Ihsanoglu said unofficial results showed he had won about 40pc of the vote.
Turkey has emerged as a regional economic force under Mr Erdogan, who, as prime minister for more than a decade, has ridden a wave of religiously conservative support to transform the secular republic founded by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk in 1923.
But his critics warn that a President Erdogan, with hisroots in political Islam and intolerance of dissent, would lead the NATO member and European Union candidate further away from Ataturk's secular ideals.
In a tea house in the working-class Istanbul district of Tophane, men watching election coverage on TV praised Mr Erdogan as a pious man of the people who had boosted Turkey's status both economically and on the international stage.
"Erdogan is on the side of the underdog. He is the defender against injustice. While the Arab world was silent, he spoke out against Israel on Gaza," said Murat (42), a jeweller, who declined to give his family name.
But at a polling station in the capital Ankara, Yucel Duranoglu (45) who works for a private company, said, "The freedom that (Erdogan) says has increased is for his ownsupporters. You can only be free if you support him. He has polarised this country in a way nobody has before."