Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory Sunday in a historic runoff vote that posed the biggest challenge to his 20 years of transformative but divisive rule.
The 69-year-old leader overcame Turkey’s biggest economic crisis in generations and the most powerful opposition alliance to ever face his Islamic-rooted party to take an unassailable lead.
Near complete results showed him leading secular opposition rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu by four percentage points.
“We will be ruling the country for the coming five years,” Erdogan told his cheering supporters from atop a bus in his home district in Istanbul. “God willing, we will be deserving of your trust.”
Speaking at his party headquarters in the capital Ankara, Kilicdaroglu said he would continue to fight until there is “real democracy” in Turkey.
“This was the most unfair election period in our history… We did not bow down to the climate of fear,” he said. “In this election, the will of the people to change an authoritarian government became clear despite all the pressures.”
Kilicdaroglu said what “truly makes me sad is the hard days ahead for our country.”
Foreign leaders including those of Russia, Qatar, Libya, Algeria, Hungary, Iran and the Palestinian Authority were among the first to congratulate Erdogan.