Turkey's Erdogan, main rival stage final election rallies

24 June, 2018, 14:38 | Author: Sheila Harris
  • Media playback is unsupported on your device                  Media captionTurkey's economy is the biggest election issue This is the story of farmer Metin Celik

More than 56 million Turkish citizens are eligible to vote.

Voting has started. After 15 years in power that have already seen Turkey transformed, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to win a new mandate and rank as the key figure of his country's modern history alongside its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

With all eyes on the transparency of the vote, polling stations opened at 0500 GMT and were due to close at 1400 GMT, with the first results expected late in the evening.

The president, however, is facing a more robust and united opposition, which has vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances.

The victor of Sunday's presidential contest will acquire sweeping new executive powers under a constitutional overhaul backed by Mr Erdogan and endorsed previous year by a narrow majority of Turks in a referendum.

Ince, a former teacher and the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), has proved highly effective on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds, especially in the big cities. "Turkey will win!" said Ince, who boasted of holding 107 rallies in the last 50 days.

"If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to".

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Erdogan has at times seemed on the defensive, making promises to lift the state of emergency imposed after the coup bid and ensuring the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey go home only after similar pledges by Ince.

Mr Ince repeated an accusation made by other opposition politicians of political bias by Turkey's state media, which has given Mr Erdogan and the AK Party heavy coverage while often neglecting to broadcast opposition rallies.

The country further witnessed a failed military coup in July 2016 which was blamed on US-based opposition cleric Fethullah Gulen.

He said the new system will bring stability and prosperity to Turkey, but critics warn it could lead to a "one-man rule". "Rights are violated, democracy is in bad shape", said health sector worker Sema, 50, after voting in Istanbul. If the HDP exceeds the 10 per cent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority.

Erdogan, who defends his tough measures as essential for national security, told his supporters at rallies on Saturday that if re-elected he would press ahead with more of the big infrastructure projects that have helped turn Turkey into one of the world's fastest-growing economies during his time in office.

But in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP's presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants.

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