Turkey Elections 2018: Erdogan Claims Victory, Says It's A 'Lesson in Democracy'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won Turkey's presidential election Sunday to stay in power for at least five more years.

Sunday's election represented Erdogan's biggest electoral challenge in more than a decade. In April, he called for a snap election to be held today, an entire year before he was previously scheduled to be up for reelection.

"The Turkish public has mandated me as president according to unofficial results," Erdogan said in a public statement. "I hope nobody will damage democracy by casting a shadow on this election and its results to hide their failure."

Erdogan's biggest opponent, Muharrem Ince, had not conceded the election as of 4:09 pm EST.

Ince gained notable support ahead of the election. He drew more than one million people to a campaign rally in Istanbul Saturday where he called for an end to Erdogan's reign. "We will embrace everyone," he said. "Turkey's hopes will be revived. This is going to be a united Turkey."

But Ince's large rally numbers didn't convert to votes. As of 3:59 pm EST, Erdogan held 53 percent of the vote while Ince had 31 percent with 96 percent of votes counted according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

Erdogan's win means the leader will step into broader and more sweeping power. Ahead of the election, he took steps to abolish the position of prime minister and transfer all of the position's executive power to himself.

Erdogan's tenure has seen an infrastructure boom and modernization efforts in Turkey that have helped many low-income residents. Critics of Erdogan point to his consolidation of power and his indirect control over most media outlets in the country.

"With these elections, Turkey is achieving a virtual democratic revolution," Erdogan told reporters after he cast his vote.