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Turkish PM Erdogan Expands Power With Election Win

Turkish Prime Minister Erdogan was elected president on Sunday. His critics say the conservative leader is growing too powerful.
Posted at 6:56 PM, Aug 10, 2014

Over 40 million Turks went to the polls today, and elected current Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan as their next President.  

The election marks the first time a president has been elected in Turkey. Until now, they've been chosen by the parliament. (Video via CCTV)

But, why the change? Well, the Turkish president has traditionally been a symbolic position — with real political power belonging to the elected prime minister.

And Erdogan has been that prime minister since 2003, but is barred by term limits from running again. (Video via The White House, YouTube)

But the man who has dominated Turkish politics for a decade had no intention of going away.   

"...and he is saying I am not going to be a ceremonial President, rather I will be fomenting whatever power the Constitution is providing me." 

Key to Erdogan's platform were constitutional reforms meant to expand the power of the office he just claimed.   

"We haven't given up hope over it, and will continue to fight for it as forcefully as possible."

But even though Erdogan beat his rival Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu by 14 points, not everyone is happy with the result. 

Erdogan is a religious conservative, and has been harshly criticized for what some say are authoritarian politics.

The New York Times likened Erdogan to Vladimir Putin, who also hopped between the roles of prime minister and president in Russia.

And they're not the only ones afraid that Erdogan is jeopardizing democracy in Turkey.  

“And indeed, some people have said, he’s out to, you know if you will, adopt the Putin method or scenario…"

The election had lower than expected turnout — leading one Istanbul resident to say voters "...simply gave up. Everybody thinks that Erdogan will win, so they don’t vote at all.”

But authoritarian or not, Erdogan's success is easily explained: he's presided over a massive expansion of Turkish influence and wealth. 

"Under his leadership, the country experienced phenomenal economic growth, evolving as an emerging market, and giving rise to a new middle class." 

Attention now turns to Erdogan's appointment as prime minister and his plan to create a new constitution, both considered important clues for how he plans to rule. 

This video includes images from Getty Images.