ISTANBUL (Reuters) – Turkey’s Tayyip Erdogan emerged victorious yesterday from his biggest electoral challenge in a decade and a half, giving him the sweeping, executive powers he has long sought and extending his grip on the nation of 81 million until at least 2023.
The most popular and divisive leader in modern Turkish history, Mr Erdogan pledged there would be no retreat from his drive to transform Turkey, a deeply polarised nation that is both a NATO member and, at least nominally, a candidate to join the European Union.
Mr Erdogan, 64, and his ruling AK Party on Sunday claimed victory in presidential and parliamentary polls, overcoming a revitalised opposition that in recent weeks had gained considerable momentum and looked capable of staging an upset.
He took 52.5 percent of the vote in the presidential race, with more than 99 percent of the votes counted. His AK Party took 42.5 percent in the parliamentary polls, and was boosted by its nationalist allies, which outstripped expectations and took 11.1 percent.
The main opposition’s candidate, the combative former teacher Muharrem Ince, took nearly 31 percent.
A masterful campaigner, Mr Erdogan has overseen years of strong economic growth and won the loyalty of millions of pious, working class Turks for delivering schools, hospitals and infrastructure.