Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was re-elected Sunday, earning expansive new powers as last year’s controversial referendum goes into effect. The constitutional changes weaken parliament and eradicate the position of prime minister, giving Erdogan more executive power. The president’s Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its nationalist allies also won a majority in parliament.
Erdogan, who served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014 before being elected president four years ago, has been praised for leading Turkey’s economic growth and development of infrastructure, but criticized for his near-autocratic rule. Throughout his tenure, he’s had monumental influence on the court system and media institutions. After a failed coup two years ago, Erdogan has detained 160,000 people, including teachers, judges, and journalists. Of that number, 50,000 have been jailed.
Despite these rights violations, Erdogan democratically won Sunday’s election. With a voter turnout of 87%, he received just over 50% of the votes.
“This election’s victor is democracy, this election’s victory is national will,” said Erdogan in a victory speech Monday.
Erdogan’s main opponent, Muharrem Ince of the Republican People’s Party (CHP), conceded defeat but argued that “this election was unjust until the results were announced.” With control of the media, Erdogan received significantly more air time than his rivals—according to BBC, 90% of the current media is pro-government.
Other opposition parties argue that state news agency Anadolu manipulated the final vote count, giving priority to areas where Erdogan received more votes. Party leaders urged allies to remain near ballot boxes until the votes were counted Sunday night.
Ince added that the constitutional changes taking effect are “very dangerous” because they will lead to a one-man rule. The changes give the president new power to directly appoint top public officials (including ministers and vice presidents), intervene in the national legal system, and impose a state of emergency. Critics argue the Turkish government lacks the checks and balances necessary for a democratic institution, but Erdogan plans to speed up reforms and maintain his goals of “liberating” neighboring Syria.
Russian leader Vladimir Putin praised Erdogan for his victory, sharing in a statement that the election results are “certainly in the interests of the peoples of Russia and Turkey.”
Erdogan’s victory means he will rule until 2023, the end of his second five-year term.