Outgoing Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was set to be Turkey’s next president after local media reported the veteran prime minister winning more than half the vote with nearly all the ballots counted.
The presidential election is the first to be implemented by popular poll, as the president used to be assigned by parliament, until a constitutional amendment in 2007.
Erdogan was set to win 54.1 per cent of the vote, ahead of his main Islamist contender Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on 37.4 per cent, Turkish television channels reported, in results based on a 60 per cent vote count.
If Erdogan serves two presidential terms, he will stay in office until 2024 and already appears to be planning to preside over celebrations in 2023 for the centenary of the foundation of the modern Turkish state, built on the ashes of the Ottoman Empire.
In 2013, Erdogan endured the toughest year of his rule, shaken by mass protests ignited by plans to build a shopping mall in Gezi Park in Istanbul, which turned into a general state of protest against the Justice and Development Party (AKP) policies.
Erdogan’s political opponents accuse him of undermining the secular legacy of Turkey’s founding father Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established a strict separation between religion and politics when he formed the new state in 1923.
Three candidates were running for the presidential post, including Erdogan. The other candidates were Ekmeledin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas.
Ihsanoglu is the joint candidate of the two main opposition parties in parliament, the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). He also served as the secretary-general of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation from 2004 until 2014.
Demirtas is the leader of the leftist People’s Democratic Party and a well-known politician from the country’s Kurdish minority.
Recalling that he was the last Turkish president to be elected by parliament, outgoing Abdullah-Gul said after the voting that he hopes that Turkey proceeds “on its path by keeping its democracy and law stronger and consolidating its economy”.