Erdogan wins Turkish presidency in first round triumph

ANKARA: Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won an outright victory in the first round of presidential elections on Sunday, promising to be a powerful head of state amid fears his country is creeping towards one-man rule.

Erdogan won 51.8 percent of the vote, way ahead of his main opposition rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu on 38.6 percent, according to official results based on a 99 percent vote count.

The third contender, Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, won 9.6 percent of the vote.

Erdogan´s inauguration is set for August 28.The result marked a personal triumph for Erdogan, 60, who has served as premier since 2003 and could potentially now be president for two mandates until 2024.

He has promised to be a powerful president with a beefed-up mandate, in contrast to the ceremonial role played by his recent predecessors.

The polls are the first time Turkey — a member of NATO and longtime hopeful to join the EU — has directly elected its president, who was previously chosen by parliament, and Erdogan hoped for a massive show of popular support.

As the results came out, Erdogan briefly addressed hundreds of supporters in Istanbul before praying at the historic Eyup Sultan mosque built after the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans.

“As long as I am alive, I will continue our struggle to sustain a more advanced democracy,” said Erdogan before heading to Ankara where he is expected to give a full victory speech.