Erdogan Victory_Aug10
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan celebrates his election victory next to wife Ermine in front of the party headquarters in Ankara on Aug. 10, 2014. Reuters/Murad Sezer

Turkish voters elected Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who made history by winning the nation's first direct presidential election on Sunday, Reuters reported. It wasn’t easy, though. He barely won the election as Turkey’s 12th president with 51.6 percent of the vote, according to unofficial results, Today’s Zaman reported.

Erdoğan’s toughest competitor Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu came in second with 38.6 percent of the vote and Selahattin Demirtaş garnered 9.8 percent of the more the 40 million voters who came out, Daily Sabah reported.

Erdoğan, a member of the Justice and Development Party (AK Party), thanked his supporters in the Haliç Congress Center in İstanbul after his win. "I will continue to serve my nation and country as long as I live. I will continue efforts for the settlement process," he said, and vowed to advance Democracy in Turkey, Today’s Zaman said.

"Today is a new day, a milestone for Turkey, the birthday of Turkey, of its rebirth from the ashes," Erdogan, 60, told his followers.

Erdoğan has dreams of a “new Turkey,” but his critics say he will grow more authoritarian as times passes. He has been accused of corruption but after Sunday’s win, his AK Party reportedly believes the corruption accusations are nothing but a “plot” against him.

Erdoğan told his followers he plans to exercise the full powers granted to the president, unlike his predecessors, Reuters wrote. But he does not want to change constitution or current laws.

"I want to underline that I will be the president of all 77 million people, not only those who voted for me. I will be a president who works for the flag, for the country, for the people," he said in his victory speech.

Of the 53 million people in Turkey eligible to vote, there was a 73 percent turn out, Today’s Zaman reported. It was lower than March’s local election where there was an 89 percent turn out. The news site reasoned fewer people came out to vote because they were either on vacation or away from their homes.

Incumbent President Abdullah Gül, who has been in office since 2007, will leave his job Aug. 28. The new president will serve for five years and can seek a second term.

Follow me on Twitter @mariamzzarella