Turkey goes to the polls in crucial election

Hannah Rogers
June 24, 2018

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had 55.08 percent of the vote with 70.5 percent of the votes counted in Turkey's presidential election on Sunday, broadcasters said.

Mr Erdogan's main challenger is 54-year-old former physics teacher Mr Ince, who is backed by the centre-left main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and has wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging election campaign.

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.

Muharrem Ince, the main opposition's presidential candidate, stood at 29.4 percent nationwide, television channels said.

A party must receive 10 percent of the votes for any of its candidates to win a seat at the legislature.

An election committee member shows a ballot displaying a vote for Selahattin Demirtas, presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) at a polling station during the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in Istanbul on June 24, 2018.

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.

The voters had to present a medical report explaining their reason for being unable to come to polling stations.

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However, if the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) crosses the 10 per cent hurdle, the AKP alliance may lose its absolute majority in parliament.

Erdogan called the snap elections, bringing forward a vote that was expected to be held in November 2019. "With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations".

Results being compiled by the Fair Election Platform, formed by opposition parties, also pointed to Erdogan winning the presidency in the first round with about 53 percent.

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.

If Erdogan wins both the presidency and control of Parliament, observers worry that Turkey could continue a slide from authoritarianism to outright dictatorship.

The president had for the last two years ruled under a state of emergency imposed in the wake of the 2016 failed coup, with tens of thousands arrested in an unprecedented crackdown, which cranked up tensions with the West.

Ince told a rally on Saturday he would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected president. Erdogan accused his late ally and now nemesis, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, of masterminding the coup. If it does so, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority.

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