Teflon two-decade president Erdogan declares victory in Turkey runoff race

President Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in Turkey’s presidential election, a win that would steer his increasingly authoritarian rule into a third decade after he saw off his toughest political challenge yet.

The head of the High Election Board earlier said Mr Erdogan was leading rival Kemal Kılıcdaroglu with 53.41 per cent support, with 75.42 per cent of ballot boxes logged.

Final official results have yet to be released.

Supporters gathered at Mr Erdogan’s Istanbul residence in anticipation of victory as data reported by both the state-run Anadolu agency and the opposition ANKA news agency gave him the edge with nearly 99 per cent of ballot boxes counted.

Supporters chanted “Allahu Akbar”, or “God is greatest”.

“I expect everything to become better,” said Nisa, 28, a headscarved woman wearing a headband with Mr Erdogan’s name.

Victory would extend Mr Erdogan’s two-decade reign, securing a mandate to continue his increasingly authoritarian rule that has polarised Turkey and strengthened its position as a regional military power.

Mr Erdogan addressed a crowd, declaring victory despite no official result being declared.

“I would like to thank each and every member of my nation who gave us the responsibility of governing our country for five years with their choice,” he said after singing atop a bus nearby surrounded by his supporters, CNN reported.

Mr Kılıcdaroglu condemned Mr Erdogan’s authoritarian government and what he called an unfair election in a fiery address, BBC reported.

Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has labelled the election unfair. Photo: AAP

Erdogan’s image of invincibility

Victory would reinforce Mr Erdogan’s image of invincibility, after having already redrawn domestic, economic, security and foreign policy in the NATO member country of 85 million people.

The win would come after Mr Erdogan weathered some of his toughest political headwinds yet, appealing to voters with nationalist and conservative rhetoric during a divisive campaign that deflected attention from deep economic troubles.

The defeat of Mr Kilicdaroglu, who promised to set the country on a more democratic and collaborative path, will likely be cheered in Moscow but mourned in Western capitals and much of the Middle East after Turkey took a more confrontational and independent stance in foreign affairs.

Analysts predict economic and market volatility after the vote that some had declared a test of whether such an autocratic leader could be peacefully removed.

But ahead of the first-round presidential election on May 14, Mr Erdogan – a veteran of a dozen election victories – said he respected democracy and denied being a dictator.

Mr Kilicdaroglu, who ran a mostly inclusive campaign in the face of attacks from Mr Erdogan, had promised to reset governance, restore human rights, and return independence to the courts and central bank after they were sidelined over the last decade.

After his ruling alliance won a comfortable majority in parliament in the May 14 vote, Mr Erdogan had warned that a diverse opposition alliance of six parties would struggle to govern and he would continue his strong leadership in a new five-year term as president.

Reaction to the vote

Russian President Vladimir Putin offered congratulations to Mr Erdogan.

The presidents of Iran and Algeria and the Emir of Qatar were among leaders to congratulate Mr Erdogan in the Middle East, where he has asserted Turkish influence, at times with military power.

Across the Middle East, the prospect of five more years of Mr Erdogan does not appear to be prompting the alarm it might once have after he reached accommodations with several of the governments with which he had been at odds.

Mr Erdogan’s performance has wrong-footed opponents who thought voters would punish him over the state’s initially slow response to devastating earthquakes in February, in which more than 50,000 people died.

But in the first round of voting on May 14, which included parliamentary elections, his AK Party emerged top in 10 of the 11 provinces hit by the earthquakes, helping it to secure a parliamentary majority along with its allies.

Emre Erdogan, a political science professor at Istanbul’s Bilgi University, attributed Mr Erdogan’s success to his supporters’ belief “in his ability to solve problems, even though he created many of them”.

-with AAP

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