Wednesday, 19 September, 2018

Erdogan leads Turkey presidential poll after 20 percent vote count: state media

Erdogan seeks to cement power in Turkey's high-stakes votes Erdogan leads in Turkey’s presidential election – preliminary results
Andrew Cummings | 24 June, 2018, 21:16

Incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdogan will fight for his re-election with five other candidates.

But Sunday's twin elections, for both president and parliament, represent the greatest challenge Erdoğan and his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have faced since rising to power 16 years ago.

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

In the presidential contest also taking place on Sunday, Erdogan was at 58 percent, with 30 percent of the votes counted, the broadcasters said.

He said told his followers: "If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to, fear will continue to reign".

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 AKP's results are expected to be lower than they were in the 2015 election, when the party received almost 50 percent, achieving a comfortable majority in the parliament.

Under constitutional amendments approved after a controversial 2017 referendum, Turkey is making a transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential one - giving the next president expanded powers, abolishing the prime minister's post, and eliminating numerous checks and balances created to help parliament protect against the misuse of presidential powers.The changes will take effect after the elections. The referendum effectively split Turkish society in half, as the amendment package passed by a close margin, securing 52 percent of the vote.

As he runs Turkey under a state of emergency crackdown imposed after a failed coup in 2016, Mr. Erdogan has concentrated enormous powers in his hands.

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Erdogan's announcement came a day after Devlet Bahceli, chairman of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) called for early elections to be held on August 26, 2018.

"Turkey will reach their level of development too and will be among the top ten countries in this respect", Erdogan said.

Meanwhile, Erdogan's main rival, opposition candidate Muharrem Ince, has been drawing large crowds of support and is expected to take the election into a second runoff vote with Erdogan.

Selahattin Demirtas, a jailed Turkish-Kurdish politician, is also a candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party's (HDP).

Six candidates are running for president and eight parties have fielded candidates for 600 parliamentary seats.

While Erdogan's opponents accuse him of a risky economic policy that has weakened Turkey, his supporters insist Turkey's infrastructure has improved manyfold under Erdogan and the AKP.

The constitutional overhaul would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029. 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. "I hope that we will wake up to a more lovely day tomorrow".

Kurds make up about 18 percent of Turkey's 78 million people, mostly in eastern regions, and are expected to play a key role in deciding the outcome of the parliamentary elections.

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