Erdogan declared himself the winner of Turkey’s runoff election

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan votes at a polling station during the second round of the presidential elections in Istanbul, Turkey May 28, 2023. REUTERS (MURAD SEZER /)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ddeclared victory on Sunday in a historic runoff that posed the biggest challenge to his 20 years of transformative but divisive rule.

The 69-year-old leader overcame Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in generations and the most powerful opposition alliance his Islamic-rooted party has ever faced to seize an uncontested advantage.

The nearly complete results gave him a four percentage point lead over his opposition rival, layman Kemal Kilicdaroglu.

“We will rule the country for the next five years,” Erdogan told his ecstatic supporters from the top of a bus in his home district of Istanbul. “God willing, we will be worthy of your trust.”

Turkey’s longest-serving leader was tested like never before in what was considered the most important election in the country’s 100-year history as a post-Ottoman republic.

Kilicdaroglu formed a powerful coalition bringing together disenchanted former Erdogan allies, secular nationalists and religious conservatives.

He took Erdogan to the first runoff, on May 14, and further narrowed the margin in the second.

Opposition supporters considered that was the chance to save Turkey from autocracy of a man whose consolidation of power rivals that of the Ottoman sultans.

The opposition denounced various irregularities, including physical attacks against electoral observers in southeastern Turkey.

The social democratic party CHP, the party of opposition candidate Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, spoke today of numerous cases of votes in the name of people who were not present on the ballots, the registration of deceased people as voters and the delivery of pre-stamped ballots.

The vice-president of the CHP parliamentary group, Ozgür Ozel, declared that a former deputy from Istanbul and several party poll watchers were beaten in Sanliurfa for denouncing the irregularities.

According to Özel said on Twitter, the incident took place in the village of Karaali, in Sanliurfa, where there were an insufficient number of gendarmes deployed.

One of the observers attacked told halktv that they tried to lynch him in the town, where “in many places people who oppose irregularities are threatened and beaten.”

Ahmet Davutoglu, former prime minister of the ruling AKP party and now an opposition party, also protested the beatings. In a message on social networks, he assured that he is receiving information about voting from people who are not included in the records.