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Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey's first direct presidential election Sunday, striking 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. "I will not be the president of only those who voted for me, I will be the president of 77 million," Erdogan said in a victory speech delivered from the balcony of the Ankara headquarters of his Justice and Development Party, or AKP.
The three-term prime minister's message of unity was in stark contrast to his mostly bitter, divisive election campaign, when he poured scorn on his opponents, cast doubt on their Turkish identity and even accused his main challenger of being part of a shadowy coup conspiracy he said was run by a former associate living in the United States.
Erdogan, 60, has dominated Turkish politics for more than a decade. Revered by many as a man of the people who ushered in a period of economic prosperity, he is reviled by others as an increasingly autocratic leader trying to impose his religious and conservative views on a country with strong secular traditions. His critics have accused him of running a heavily lopsided, unfair campaign, using the assets available to him through his office as prime minister to dominate media exposure and travel across the country. His office has rejected these claims.
— The Associated Press