Turkey's Erdogan faces resurgent opposition in twin election test

Turkey's Erdogan faces resurgent opposition in twin election test

Muharrem Ince, the candidate for Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, has called on citizens "to not abandon the ballot boxes" as polls closed in critical dual presidential and parliamentary elections.

Erdogan's main challenger is 54-year-old former physics teacher Muharrem Ince, who is backed by the center-left opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP.

Although the margin of their lead narrowed steadily as votes were tallied across the nation of 81 million people, an AK Party official said Erdogan was expected to win more than the 50 percent required to avoid a runoff. The CHP had 14.82 per cent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 7.07 per cent.

Mr Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament. But again this can change sharply.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his grandchildren, casts his ballot at a polling station in Istanbul, Turkey June 24, 2018.

The president's critics, including the European Union, which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent.

"With these elections, Turkey is achieving a virtual democratic revolution", Erdogan told reporters after voting in Istanbul. "I will protect your votes at the risk of my life, and we will succeed".

"This is no longer a Turkey we want". There were reports of a scuffle at the polling station in Suruc and voting was briefly halted there.

Recent polls show Mr Erdogan's support rate stands at around 50%, not quite enough to secure him another term. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and displaying autocratic behaviour.

On Saturday police said at least 1 million people turned out in Istanbul's Maltepe district to hear Mr Ince promise to reverse - if he wins the presidency - what he sees as Turkey's turn towards more authoritarian rule under Mr Erdogan.

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Emotions are running high today as the vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency that is only backed by a small majority of Turks who say the new system of government will further erode democracy in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member country.

The victory allows Erdogan to further consolidate political power and implement the constitutional reforms.

Inflation has zoomed well into double digits - with popular concern over sharp rises in staples like potatoes and onions - while the Turkish lira has lost some 25% in value against the USA dollar this year.

"At each election, I come with hope".

Earlier, a crowd of Erdogan's supporters chanted his name as he emerged from a school after voting in Turkey's largest city Istanbul, shaking hands with people amid tight security.

The votes of Turkey's Kurdish minority will be especially crucial in the parliamentary poll.

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.

By order of the Supreme Election Council (YSK), all campaigning and opinion broadcasts ahead of Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections ended as of 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Saturday.

The sale of alcoholic beverages is banned from 0300 GMT (6:00am) to 2100 GMT (00:00pm) while consumption of alcoholic beverages is also prohibited in public places.

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