Emrah Gurel / AP
Published Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 | 11:04 a.m.
Updated Sunday, Aug. 10, 2014 | 12:02 p.m.
ANKARA, Turkey — The main opposition candidate conceded defeat to Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan Sunday in the country's first direct presidential election.
Unofficial results based on Turkish media counts put Erdogan at about 52 percent after more than 95 percent of the ballot boxes were counted. His main rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, got just below 40 percent. An absolute majority was needed for victory in the first round.
"I hope that the result is beneficial for democracy in Turkey," Ihsanoglu said in Istanbul. "I congratulate the prime minister and wish him success."
If confirmed, the first round victory will ensure Erdogan, currently serving his third term as prime minister, remains at the country's helm for another five years. It will also allow him to press ahead with his plans to strengthen the powers of the presidency — which until now was largely a ceremonial post.
"The people showed their will at the polls today," Erdogan said in a brief speech before thousands of supporters in Istanbul Sunday evening, but stopped short of declaring victory.
He said he would head to the capital, Ankara, from where he hoped to address supporters from his party headquarters late Sunday night, once all results were in.
The state-run Anadolu news agency, which has reporters stationed in vote counting centers across the country, declared Erdogan the winner. Turkey's electoral commission is not expected to publicly announce any official results until Monday.