Published: Sun, June 24, 2018
Global | By Enrique Rogers

Erdogan faces major test as Turks vote for president, parliament

Erdogan faces major test as Turks vote for president, parliament

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan speaks to the press after casting his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey, on June 24, 2018.

Meanwhile, Erdogan's ruling AK Party had 45.18 percent and its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) ally had 11.78 percent in Turkey's parliamentary elections, with 61.1 percent of votes counted, according to CNN Turk and other local broadcasters.

Addressing a rally in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people, Ince promised to reverse what he and opposition parties see as a swing towards authoritarian rule under Erdogan in the country of 81 million people.

The stakes are particularly high as the new president will be the first to enjoy enhanced powers under a new constitution agreed in an April 2017 referendum strongly backed by Erdogan.

Erdogan had faced an energetic campaign by the Ince, who has rivalled the incumbent's charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll. "With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations".

Analysts say the opposition's performance is all the more troubling for the authorities given how the campaign has been slanted in favour of Erdogan, who has dominated media airtime.

Ince, head of the Republican People's Party and the main opposition presidential candidate, urged monitors and citizens to protect ballot boxes on voting day against fraud.

Civil society groups and opposition parties said they had half a million volunteer observers manning polling stations, but allegations of fraud emerged as early as midday on Sunday.

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Mr. Erdogan, the most popular but also divisive leader in modern Turkish history, argues the new powers will better enable him to tackle the nation's economic problems - the lira has lost 20% against the dollar this year - and crush Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on his followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations. Both Erdogan and Ince have said they will lift the state of emergency as president.

The president has arrested and jailed many of his opponents and critics since the attempted coup in 2016.

"Ince's wit, audacity, ability to poke holes through Erdogan's narrative and connect with Turks beyond the traditional base of his secularist CHP has flustered Erdogan and his team", said Anthony Skinner, head of MENA at Verisk Maplecroft.

"This is no longer a Turkey we want".

Six candidates, including Erdogan, are competing for the presidency.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party is nearing the 10% electoral threshold to enter parliament, with 9% of the vote.

An AK Party official said it expected Mr. Erdogan to win the election outright in the first round with at least 51%.

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