Erdoğan declares victory in Turkey’s historic runoff election

Turkey's president and presidential candidate of AKP, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R), flanked by his wife Emine Erdoğan (L), casts his ballot on the day of the presidential runoff vote in a school in Istanbul on May 28, 2023. MURAD SEZER / POOL / AFP

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan declared victory Sunday in a historic runoff that posed the biggest challenge to his 20 years of polarizing rule, Agence France-Presse reported.

The 69-year-old leader faced down Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in generations and a united opposition to take a commanding lead.

The official Anadolu state news agency showed the Islamic-rooted leader ahead of his secular opposition rival Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu by four percentage points, with 97 percent of the vote counted.

Erdoğan won 52.3 percent of the vote to Kılıçdaroğlu’s 47.7 percent, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported.

A separate count published by the pro-opposition Anka news agency showed Erdoğan leading by a similar margin.

“We will be ruling the country for the coming five years,” Erdoğan told his cheering supporters from atop a bus in his home district in Istanbul. “God willing, we will be deserving of your trust.”

Turkey’s main cities erupted in jubilation as Erdoğan spoke.

Traffic on Istanbul’s iconic Taksim Square ground to a halt, and huge crowds gathered outside his presidential palace in Ankara.

NATO member Turkey’s longest-serving leader was tested like never before in what was widely seen as the country’s most consequential election in its 100-year history as a post-Ottoman republic.

Kılıçdaroğlu cobbled together a powerful coalition that grouped Erdoğan’s disenchanted former allies with secular nationalists and religious conservatives.

He pushed Erdoğan into his first runoff on May 14 and narrowed the margin further in the second round.

Opposition supporters viewed it as a do-or-die chance to save Turkey from being turned into an autocracy by a man whose consolidation of power rivals that of Ottoman sultans.

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