Turkey's main opposition candidate concedes election but warns of '1-man regime'

Supporters at Mr Erdogan's rally

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan took a commanding lead in his bid Sunday (this morning NZT) for a presidency with broadly expanded powers, according to partial results reported by the country's state-run news agency that showed him with more than 50 per cent of the vote - enough to avoid a runoff.

Mr Erdogan was declared Turkey's president by electoral board chairman Sadi Guven, who said he won a majority based on 99.9 percent of counted votes.

With almost 90 per cent of the country's ballot boxes counted, according to Anadolu, Erdogan was at 53.3 per cent of the vote, with his main rival Muharrem Ince at 30.4 per cent.

"According to unofficial results, the outcome of the elections is clear".

Ince also accused Erdogan of imposing a de facto media ban on covering the opposition.

The stakes in the election were particularly high because of the enhanced powers for the new president under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.

But his Republican People's Party (CHP) contains few figures with any experience of government and it struggles to retain credibility.

In an address to thousands of supporters in Ankara, Erdogan said that democracy was the victor and that Turkey was "an example for the rest of the world", The Guardian reported.

Parliament has been weakened and the post of prime minister abolished, as measures approved in a controversial referendum previous year take effect. Western countries will undoubtedly continue to cooperate with Turkey on areas of shared interest, express concern about differences, and encourage adherence to rule of law.

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

Gone is the prime minister, his role abolished, and much of parliament's oversight of the executive branch. But the pro-opposition BirGun took a different line: "An unfair election", it said, adding that the way results had been delivered had given rise to "doubts".

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations. Noting similarities between official data and monitoring by his party, he said the victory margin was so wide that it "cannot be explained merely by election irregularities".

The HDP's presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, campaigned from a prison cell, where he is detained on terrorism charges he denies.

An extremely high voter turnout was recorded with almost 87 percent of the electorate casting ballots.

"With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations", he said. With his sweeping new powers, scrapping the post of prime minister and able to choose ministers and most senior judges, he becomes Turkey's most powerful leader since its founding father Ataturk.

Halk TV, a Turkish nationwide TV channel, spoke to the opposition CHP's candidate Muharrem Ince via WhatsApp.

Tapping in to nationalist fears of outside influences in Turkey after a failed coup in 2016, Erdogan painted his political opponents as traitors to democracy. This limits some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees. Erdogan has been president for 15 years, and based on 96 percent of votes that have been counted so far, that term will be extended another five years.

A woman passes by an election poster of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 23.

"Turkey is staging a democratic revolution", he told reporters after casting his own vote in Istanbul.

It is in this Anatolian heartland that Erdogan still inspires impassioned support from people who share his Islamic conservative beliefs and credit him for bringing Turkey to greater economic prosperity and respect.



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