Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared victory after beating challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in a runoff election. Calling the election a “democracy festival,” Erdogan thanked “each and every member of the nation” for casting their votes.
“We have completed the second round of the presidential elections with the favor of our people,” Erdogan told a crowd of supporters in Istanbul on Sunday night. “We will be ruling the country for the coming five years. God willing we will be worthy of your trust as we have been for the last 21 years.”
Erdogan has been a singularly dominant figure in Turkish politics ever since he was elected prime minister in 2003. Three consecutive terms as premier were followed by two terms as president from 2014 onwards, and the conservative kingpin is now set to embark on a third term following Sunday’s win.
With more than 99% of votes counted, Erdogan was leading Kilicdaroglu by 52.07% to 47.93% at the time of his address, Türkiye’s Anadolu Agency reported. Although the country’s electoral commission has not yet declared a winner, Kilicdaroglu has no chance of closing the gap.
Heavily criticized for his government’s response to a pair of devastating earthquakes near the Syrian border in February, and with the Turkish economy wracked by persistently high inflation, Erdogan’s path to victory was longer this year than in previous elections. Erdogan beat Kilicdaroglu during a first round of voting on May 14, taking 49.5% to his challenger’s 44.8%. However, with neither candidate winning an absolute majority, a runoff election was announced, and third-place candidate Sinan Ogan, who took 5% of the vote, was eliminated.
In his speech on Sunday, Erdogan declared all of Türkiye’s 85 million citizens “victors.”
In the runup to both elections, Erdogan and his officials vehemently condemned the Western media for favoring Kilicdaroglu, a political centrist who vowed to mend ties with the US and NATO and to restart EU accession talks. By the end of his victory speech, Erdogan’s win had not yet been acknowledged by his American or western European counterparts, but the president had received congratulations from Hungary, Serbia, Azerbaijan, Qatar and Palestine, among others.