Erdogan faces major test as Turks vote for president, parliament

24 June, 2018, 23:26 | Author: Charlene Valdez
  • Erdogan seeks to cement power in Turkey's high-stakes votes

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday was leading a tightly contested presidential election with most of the ballots counted, as he seeks a new mandate in the face of a revitalized opposition and weakening economy.

Preliminary results as of 9.45 p.m. local time (1845GMT) show Erdogan winning 54.4 percent of the vote, with his closest rival Muharrem Ince at 29.8 percent. If no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the election moves to a runoff vote in early July.

The report added that Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) has won 14.82 percent of the vote while voter turnout has been put at 86.82 percent for presidential and 87 percent for parliamentary elections.

Nationalist candidate Meral Aksener, nicknamed the "she-wolf" by her admirers, leads the Iyi party and is seen by many as the only viable alternative to Erdogan in a country that is becoming increasingly conservative. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member state and entrench one-man rule.

People arrive at a polling station to vote in snap twin Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections in the Kurdish stronghold of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey on June 24, 2018. There are no exit polls.

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The opposition has also alleged heavy bias in favour of Erdogan by state media, with news channel TRT Haber not showing a single second of Ince's giant final Istanbul rally live.

She and others in the city said they voted for the pro-Kurdish HDP, hoping it would exceed the 10 per cent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament.

Erdogan counters that view, saying "Turkey is staging a democratic revolution".

Opposition parties and NGOs said they were deploying half a million monitors at ballot boxes to prevent fraud. "With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilisations".

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.

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"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.

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

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.

Mr. Ince told a rally on June 23 he would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected president. He won nearly 10 percent of the vote in the last election, and if he were to get a bigger percentage this time, the ruling coalition may lose its majority.

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