Turkish elections: Erdogan the sultan wins big, Kurdish opposition gets in parliament

The Turkish president is elected in the first round of the vote with 53 per cent. Turnout was 87 per cent. In his first speech Erdogan pledges to fight terrorists, threatens the opposition. International observers faced obstacles during the poll. In Diyarbakir people celebrate pro-Kurdish party, which makes it into parliament.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Incumbent Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) won in yesterday’s presidential and parliamentary elections, ensuring their control over the country for the next five years.

The "sultan" won in the first round of the presidential ballot. He now has more extensive powers following constitutional changes approved last year in a contested referendum.

The results will be made official on 29 June, but the chief of Turkey's election authority, Sadi Guven, said that Erdogan had an “absolute majority” with 53 per cent of the vote with 99 per cent of all the ballots counted.

His closest rival Muharrem won 31 per cent. None of the other four candidates appears to have won more than 8.4 per cent of the vote.

The opposition has not however officially accepted the defeat, announcing instead that it was going to continue the struggle for democracy whatever the result.

In the weeks that preceded the vote and also yesterday, there were reports of fraud, vote tampering and pressure and intimidation at polling stations.

In some cases, international observers could not verify and, consequently, certify the regularity of voting operations.

Erdogan, 64, said that “The winner of this election is each and every individual among my 81 million citizens”.

In his speech, he has already cautioned his rivals against claiming foul play, saying, "I hope nobody will try to cast a shadow on the results and harm democracy in order to hide their own failure."

In fact, the “sultan" seems bent on pursuing  his purge against the Kurds and sympathisers of Islamic preacher Fetullah Gülen, in exile in the United States, who has been blamed for the failed coup in July 2016.

Since the crackdown started 160,000 have been jailed. More than 50,000 are being held pending trial, some 107,000 public servants have been fired in two years.

In foreign policy, Erdogan said that Turkey would act more firmly against terrorist groups and would continue to "liberate Syrian lands" so refugees could return to their homes there.

This means continued Turkish support for rebel groups and Islamic extremists fighting President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, who are useful allies in the fight against the Kurdish movements on the southern and eastern border of the country.

Thanks to the constitutional reform – criticised for the lack of checks and balances as in France and the United States – Erdogan, who was prime minister for 11 years, will be able to lead Turkey until 2023 when he can run again and possibly stay in power until 2028.

In the next few weeks he will start to appoint high-ranking officials, including ministers and deputy ministers, control the courts and maintain the state of emergency.

The ruling AKP will be the largest party in parliament. With 42 per cent of the vote it has 293 seats out of 600. Its ally, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) won 50 seats with 11 per cent of the vote.

The main opposition party, the Republican People's Party (CHP) took 23 per cent of the vote and 146 seats. The Good Party (İYİ) won 10 per cent for 44 seats.

For its part, the pro-Kurdish Free Democratic Party (HDP) wont more than 10 per cent of the vote, above the threshold to be elected, and so will be represented.

This was met with joy and celebrations in Diyarbakir, capital of the homonymous Kurdish majority province.