ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan vowed Sunday a “new era” of reconciliation in Turkey after winning a “historic” victory in presidential elections.
“Today we are closing an era and taking the first step for a new era,” Erdogan said in a victory speech from the balcony of his party headquarters in Ankara.
He promised a “new social reconciliation process” where all Turks of whatever origin or belief would be equal citizens of the country.
“I thank each and every citizen, whether they voted for me or not, who contributed to the writing of history on such a historic day,” he added, saying the “debates of the past” would now be left behind.
“Today is a new day. Today is a milestone. Today is the day when a new Turkey is rising from the ashes.”
Erdogan was joined by top party officials as well as his wife Emine and the president of Kyrgyzstan, Almazbek Atambayev.
“It is not only Recep Tayyip Erdogan who won today. Today, national will has won once again. Today, democracy has won once again,” he said. “We may have different political views, different lifestyles, sects, values, ethnic roots ... but we are all sons of this country ... each of us are the owner of this state.”
Erdogan won the country’s first direct presidential election in the first round Sunday, an unofficial vote count showed, ensuring he remains at the country’s helm for at least another five years.“It is understood that Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won an absolute majority of the votes,” election commission head Sadi Guven said in Ankara.
He added that no ballots would be printed for a runoff that would have been held had nobody won an absolute majority, and that the results would be announced Monday.
Erdogan’s main rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, conceded defeat in a brief speech in Istanbul.
“I hope that the result is beneficial for democracy in Turkey,” Ihsanoglu said. “I congratulate the prime minister and wish him success.”
The first round victory ensures Erdogan, currently serving his third term as prime minister, remains at the country’s helm for another five years. It will also allow him to press ahead with his plans to strengthen the powers of the presidency, which until now was largely a ceremonial post.
With 98 percent of ballot boxes opened, Erdogan stood at 51.95 percent of the vote, a count by the state-run Anadolu news agency showed. Ihsanoglu had 38.34 percent and the third candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, had 9.71 percent. Anadolu has reporters stationed in vote counting centers across the country.
The turnout, which exceeded 89 percent in March local elections, appeared to be low, OSCE Parliamentary Assembly observer George Tsereteli told reporters.