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Turkey's Erdogan claims victory in elections but opposition wary

By ORHAN COSKUN and NEVZAT DEVRANOGLU
Reuters

June 24. 2018 10:46PM
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan waves to supporters as he leaves his residence in Istanbul, Turkey, on Sunday. (REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis)



ANKARA — Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party claimed victory in Turkey's presidential and parliamentary polls on Sunday, overcoming the biggest electoral challenge to their rule in a decade and a half.

However, the main opposition party said it was too early to concede defeat and said it believed Erdogan could still fall short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a presidential runoff on July 8.

"Our people have given us the job of carrying out the presidential and executive posts," 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 preempt opposition complaints of foul play.

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.

Sunday'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.

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.

An unexpectedly strong showing by the AK Party's alliance partner, the nationalist MHP, could translate into the stable parliamentary majority that Erdogan seeks to govern freely.

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

In early trading in Asia the lira currency firmed modestly versus the dollar on hopes of a stable working relationship between president and parliament.

Opposition doubts

Erdogan's main presidential rival, Muharrem Ince of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) 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 99 percent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 52.5 percent, well ahead of Ince on 31 percent, 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 Sunday's elections.

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.

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

In the opposition camp, the CHP had 23 percent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 11 percent - above the threshold it needs to reach to enter parliament.

The opposition nationalist Iyi (Good) party received 10 percent.


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