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European leaders congratulate Erdogan on election win

26 June 2018

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan won sweeping new executive powers after his victory in landmark elections that saw his Islamist-rooted AK Party and its nationalist allies secure a majority in parliament.

Erdogan's main rival, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party (CHP), conceded defeat but branded the elections unjust and said the presidential system that now takes effect was "very dangerous" because it would lead to one-man rule.

Many critics say this year's military operation in Afrin, Syria, was primarily created to boost both Mr Erdogan's reputation and nationalist sentiment prior to the elections; however, in his victory speech to supporters from the ruling party's headquarters in Ankara he said that Turkey would now act more decisively against terrorist organisations.

"We have received the message that has been given to us in the ballot boxes", he said.

If confirmed, the results will mean Erdogan, who still enjoys sky-high support in parts of the Anatolian heart of the country, even improved on his score from the 2014 presidential elections of 51.8%.

Erdogan spoke of his commitment to fight terrorist organisations and "to continue the fight to make the Syrian grounds freer" and to better the country's "international reputation".

"It (the opposition) created an incredible amount of enthusiasm for all those people who were against the one-man regime".

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Erdogan, who has been in power for more than 15 years, has repeatedly stressed the necessity of having a powerful executive presidency to create a confident and stable country that will take "steps for the future in a stronger manner".

Unlike Erdogan's success, his Justice and Development Party (AK Party) lost its majority in the 600-seat assembly by claiming 295 seats, according to the unofficial results.

According to Paul Levin, director of Stockholm University Institute for Turkish Studies, Turkey's global position will remain the same in the medium to long term.

With election victory in hand, Erdogan will rule with new muscle provided by sweeping changes to the constitution that were approved by a narrow majority of the electorate in a controversial referendum that he championed previous year. The opposition nationalist Iyi (Good) party had 10 percent, according to state media.

The victor of Sunday's presidential election will be the first Turkish head of state to govern with expanded powers after constitutional changes were approved in April 2017.

"I hope nobody will damage democracy by casting a shadow on this election and its results to hide their failure", he continued.

OSCE observer Olivier Henry, left, and Rita Bellens work at a polling station at a primary school in Ankara, Turkey, Sunday, June 24, 2018.

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What changes after the implementation of the new presidential system? A crackdown launched after the coup has seen 160,000 people detained, and the state of emergency allows Erdogan to bypass parliament with decrees.

Polls had suggested the possibility that the presidential vote could head into a second-round runoff on July 8 and that the AKP could lose its parliamentary majority after 16 years.

The opposition candidates had pledged to overturn the new powers, which were narrowly passed by referendum past year, if they won.

But on Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected and, in doing so, effectively finished what the coup plotters started.

After 80 percent of ballots from Turks eligible to vote in Germany were counted, Erdogan had won 65.7 percent of them, officials said.

All this raises a couple of important questions: First, why did the United States just sell a bunch of F-35s to Turkey in the face of opposition from Congress?

Despite 90% of the media being pro-government and largely shunning the opposition, the president's posters and flags dwarfing any challenge on the streets, the election being held under a state of emergency curtailing protests, and critical journalists and academics being jailed or forced into exile, Mr Erdogan only got half of the country behind him. "And as Turkey's democratic credentials deteriorate further, relations with the European Union will remain strained, even as the two neighbors will continue to need to collaborate on issues like migration and counterterrorism", he told Arab News.

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European leaders congratulate Erdogan on election win