Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan holds his ballot paper at a polling station in Istanbul on Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014. / Emilio Morenatti, AP

ISTANBUL - Turkish voters elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday to become the country's first directly elected president, the head of Turkey's election commission said.

Sadi Guven said Sunday night that "it is understood that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won an absolute majority of the votes." He said the official vote count would be announced Monday. The main opposition candidate, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, also conceded to Erdogan.

"I will not be the president of only those who voted for me, I will be the president of 77 million," Erdogan told thousands of cheering supporters Sunday night.

With more than 95% of ballots counted, Erdogan received nearly 52% of the vote, eliminating the need for a second round of voting, according to an unofficial tally by the state-run Anadolu news agency, which had reporters in vote counting centers across the country and declared Erdogan the winner.

Erdogan, 60, who is barred from being prime minister for a fourth term, wants to strengthen the largely ceremonial post of president.

That could have a big impact on foreign policy with the West. Turkey plays a pivotal role in NATO because of its strategic location.

His foreign policy views have been controversial. He sides with Hamas in the ongoing conflict with Israel and Gaza. He supports the Islamist militant opposition in Syria. He recently said on TV that he no longer communicates directly with President Obama.

A week ago at a rally, Erdogan compared Israel to Adolf Hitler. , the second time in a month he had said that. "Like Hitler, who sought to establish a perfect Aryan race, Israel is seeking the same," he said.

"Recep Tayyip Erdogan is someone who is not to be underestimated - he has a big capacity for surprises," said Barcin Yinanc, editorial editor of the Hurriyet Daily News.

The Turkish politician is a rags-to-riches story - a man who grew up impoverished in the eastern city of Rize on the Black Sea and worked his way up from street peddler to command of Turkey's most powerful political movement in a generation.

As mayor of Istanbul, he spent months in jail after reciting a religious poem which ran afoul of the country's staunch secular laws.

But after more than a decade of rule, he helped transform the country by opening it up to foreign investment, removing taboos over religious symbols - including women wearing headscarves in public places - restricted alcohol sales in many public places and vowed to impose a new brand of religious conservatism that critics say is a creeping Islamist agenda.

At a campaign rally a week ago, Erdogan compared Israel to Adolf Hitler, the second time in a month he had said that. "Like Hitler, who sought to establish a perfect Aryan race, Israel is seeking the same," he said.

"I am not sure that Washington is very happy or exhilarated in seeing someone like Erdogan leading the country," said Barçin Yinanç, editorial editor of the Hurriyet Daily News.

Sinan ?lgen, a former Turkish diplomat and visiting scholar of Carnegie Europe in Brussels, said Erdogan "wants to be both president and prime minister at the same time."

In Turkey, Erdogan came under fierce criticism last year after ordering and then praising a brutal police crackdown on protesters trying to save Istanbul's Taksin Gezi Park from demolition as part of a redevelopment project. The crackdown sparked violent protests in cities across Turkey. The park has since been saved, but Erdogan's government has been unapologetic about the violence that included at least 11 deaths and injured more than 8,000.

On election day, families strolled through the park, some saying they continue to support the leader who just last year had ordered its destruction.

"Erdogan is very clever, and he has done a lot for the economy," Yasar Cosun, 52, said. "He is creating a lot of new jobs and consolidating democracy and fostering freedom for Islam."

Contributing: The Associated Press



Copyright 2014USAToday

Read the original story: Erdogan wins Turkish presidential vote

More In

test

Real Deals

Flip, shop and save on specials from your favorite retailers in central Ohio.

GET DEALS | COUPONS

Things To Do

FRI
28
SAT
29
SUN
30
MON
1
TUE
2
WED
3
THU
4

CLASSIFIEDS

Classifieds from across Central Ohio
Lancaster
Chillicothe
Newark
Marion
Bucyrus
Mansfield
Zanesville
Coshocton

Weeklies & Shoppers

10TV Headlines

Dispatch Headlines

METROMIX