ANKARA - Turkey's outgoing premier Recep Tayyip Erdogan was Thursday sworn in as president as opponents who accuse him of authoritarianism after more than a decade in power walked out of the ceremony.
Erdogan, 60, took the oath in Ankara to begin a five-year mandate in which he has vowed to build a "new Turkey" by pushing through a new constitution and driving on with an ambitious development programme.
Deputies of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), who accuse Erdogan of violating the constitution, noisily walked out of parliament just before he was sworn in.
Erdogan has made clear he wants to wield genuine executive power as president after becoming the first directly elected head of state, taking 52 per cent of the vote in the August 10 poll. His recent predecessors in the Cankaya presidential palace performed a largely ceremonial role.
The election was a triumph for Erdogan - who first become premier in 2003 - after surviving a tumultuous 2013 that saw mass anti-government protests and corruption allegations against his inner circle.
He will take over as president from Abdullah Gul, a former close comrade and co-founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), who appears now to have fallen out with the feisty Erdogan and is expected to play no role in the next government.
Western leaders stay away
Heads of state from a dozen nations in Eastern Europe, Africa, Central Asia and the Middle East attended the ceremony, the Anatolia news agency reported.
But leaders of top Western states were conspicuous by their absence in a possible sign of suspicion towards Erdogan's strongman tendencies.
The United States is only sending its charge d'affaires in Ankara, in what some commentators have seen as a clear snub.
Ukraine's President Petro Poroshenko had to cancel his trip due to the advance of pro-Russian forces in the east of his country.
A man clearly with his eye on history, Erdogan's five-year presidential term means he will have ruled Turkey longer than its modern founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, who established the republic out of the ruins of the Ottoman Empire.
He can serve two mandates and so could theoretically stay in power until 2024, which would allow him to see in the 100th anniversary of modern Turkey in 2023, and portray himself as a historic figure to rival Ataturk.