Prime Minister Erdogan set to win first ever Turkish presidential election
Turkey's Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan waves to members of his ruling AK Party (AKP) during a session at the Turkish parliament in Ankara on Feb. 25, 2014 [AFP]

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on course to gain a first round victory in the country’s presidential election Sunday, according to a partial count of the vote, Turkish television stations said.

With 43 percent of ballots counted, Erdogan was significantly ahead of his rivals with around 56 percent of the vote, broadcasters CNN Turk and NTV said.

The main opposition candidate, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, was on around 35 percent while Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish left-wing People’s Democratic Party was on around 8 percent.

Under Turkish law, the leading candidate needs 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.

It is the first time Turkey has directly elected a president by popular vote. Polls in the run-up to the election suggested Erdogan, who has been the country’s prime minister for 11 years, is the clear favourite.