ISTANBUL (AP) — Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was convening his ruling party leadership Monday to find a new premier for Turkey following his victory in the country’s historic first direct vote for president.
Unofficial vote tallies by the Turkish media showed Erdogan won about 51.9 percent in Sunday’s election, with his main challenger Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu following with 38.3 percent. Selahattin Demirtas, a young Kurdish politician running on a left-wing platform, was in third place with 9.7 percent.
The election commission was expected to issue official vote figures on Monday.
In his victory speech Sunday night, Erdogan struck a conciliatory tone toward critics who fear he is bent on a power grab as he embarks on another five years at the country’s helm. Erdogan has already served three terms as prime minister.
“Today is a milestone for Turkey. Today is the day Turkey is born from its ashes and a new Turkey is built,” he told thousands of cheering, flag-waving supporters from the balcony of his Justice and Development Party headquarters in the capital, Ankara.
“I will not be the president of only those who voted for me. I will be the president of 77 million,” he said, in stark contrast to his mostly bitter, divisive election campaign.
Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade, has vowed to transform the presidency from a largely ceremonial post into a powerful position. He has said he will activate the post’s rarely used dormant powers – a legacy of a 1980 coup – including the ability to call parliament and summon Cabinet meetings.
Whoever replaces Erdogan as prime minister would hold the position ostensibly until next year, when a general election is scheduled. Many believe Erdogan will appoint a pliant premier and retain true power for himself.