Monday 10 December 2018

Erdogan claims election victory as the opposition questions voting figures

Confident: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Reuters
Confident: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Photo: Reuters

Orhan Coskun

Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party claimed victory in Turkey's presidential and parliamentary polls but the opposition has raised doubts about the official vote tallies.

The main opposition party said it was too early to concede defeat and believes Mr Erdogan could still fall short of the 50pc needed to avoid a presidential runoff on July 8.

"Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts," Mr Erdogan said in a short national address, even as votes were still being counted.

"I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure," he added, clearly aiming to pre-empt opposition complaints of foul play.

Mr Erdogan (64), the most popular but also the most divisive politician in modern Turkish history, later waved to cheering, flag-waving supporters from the top of a bus in Istanbul.

Yesterday's vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the Nato member state and entrench one-man rule.

Mr Erdogan's victory paves the way for another five-year term, and under the new constitution he could serve a further term from 2023, taking him to 2028.

"This sets the stage for speeding up reforms," Turkish Deputy Prime Minister Mehmet Simsek tweeted.

Mr Erdogan's main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince of the main opposition Republican People's Party urged election monitors to remain at polling stations to help ensure against possible election fraud, as final results came in from large cities where his party typically performs strongly.

With 99pc of votes counted in the presidential race, Mr Erdogan had 52.5pc, well ahead of Ince on 31pc, broadcasters said.

The opposition raised doubts about the accuracy and reliability of the figures released by state-run Anadolu news agency, the sole distributor of the official vote tally.

However, an opposition platform collating its own vote tally from monitors based at polling stations around the country broadly confirmed the Anadolu figures.

Opposition parties and NGOs had deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against possible electoral fraud. They said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raised fears about the fairness of yesterday's elections.

Mr Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.

In yesterday's parliamentary contest, the Islamist-rooted AK Party won 42pc and its MHP ally 11, based on 99pc of votes counted, broadcasters said.

The elections were held under a state of emergency declared after a failed military coup in July 2016 Mr Erdogan blamed on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen. It limits some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees, though Mr Erdogan says he will soon lift the measure.

Irish Independent

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