Erdogan faces toughest challenge yet as Turkey heads to polls

GETTYErdogan and his opposition Muharrem Ince

Speaking early Monday, Supreme Election Council head Sadi Guven said 97.7 percent of votes had been counted and declared Erdogan the victor. If the HDP exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority.

The voting marked the first time Turkish voters cast their ballots in simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, in line with the constitutional changes approved in a referendum a year ago that will transform the country's parliamentary system to an executive presidential one.

Trailing were Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with nearly eight percent.

"The Turkish public has mandated me as president according to unofficial results", Erdogan said in a public statement.

The pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party, whose presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas was forced to campaign from jail, received the more than 10 percent of votes required to win seats in parliament, spilling thousands of its supporters into the streets in celebration.

"The opposition parties ran surprisingly strong, energetic and competitive campaigns", Amanda Sloat, an Obama administration official who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times.

All three major opposition parties accused Anadolu Agency of manipulating the results and releasing them selectively, a claim dismissed by the government.

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Turnout in the presidential election was nearly 88 percent, according to the figures published by Anadolu.

Just days into Erdogan's first term under Turkey's new presidential system, Turkish authorities ordered the detention of 132 people, in a nationwide crackdown targeting supporters of a failed 2016 coup against the President.

"Erdogan "won" reelection in Turkey this weekend only by decimating the opposition through arrests, violence and squashing freedom of the press".

"The winners of the June 24 elections are Turkey, the Turkish nation, the sufferers of our region and all oppressed in the world", he declared.

Many Turks now fear that the country's tradition of democracy and secularism are over, with Erdogan set to implement sweeping constitutional reforms that will give him additional powers including the rights to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and declare national states of emergency. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behaviour.

Following the failed coup, Turkey has been under a state of emergency for almost two years and has seen a widespread crackdown on alleged supporters of Gulen. Analysts predict an economic downturn amid rising inflation and a struggling currency.

Over 56 million eligible voters were for the first time casting ballots in both elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to extend his 15 year grip on power. "Turkey's hopes will be revived".

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