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Erdogan faces major test as Turks vote for president, parliament

24 June 2018

Ballots of Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections are being counted at a polling station in Diyarbakir, Turkey June 24, 2018.

Voting already closed last week for Turkish citizens resident overseas, with just under 1.5 million out of just over 3 million registered voters casting their ballot, a turnout of just under 49 percent.

The elections will usher in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan (inset campaigning yesterday) and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum.

Following the failed coup, Turkey has been under a state of emergency for almost two years and has seen a widespread crackdown on alleged supporters of Gulen.

Mr Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament.

For the first time, bedridden voters - more than 17,000 - are being visited at their homes by election officials who will pick up their ballots. Opposition candidates have vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they call Erdogan's "one-man rule".

Analysts say the opposition's performance is all the more troubling for the authorities given how the campaign has been slanted in favor of Erdogan, who has dominated media airtime. He said turnout appeared to be high and that "no serious incidents" had occurred.

Six candidates are vying for the Turkish presidency.

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

According to the Turkish electoral law, Mr Erdogan needs to gain more than half of the votes to beat his competitors.

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A united and resurgent opposition has threatened Erdogan's dominance and is aiming to at least force a run-off vote on July 8.

Ince, a former teacher and the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), has proved highly effective on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds, especially in the big cities. Her party is new but she is experienced; she's a former interior minister and her conservative and nationalist credentials mean she is well-placed to challenge him.

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.

With 80 percent of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 54 percent, ahead of Ince on 30 percent, broadcasters said.

Turkey will also be electing 600 lawmakers to parliament on Sunday - 50 more than in the previous assembly.

With 22 per cent of the country's ballot boxes counted, Erdogan had 59.1 per cent of the vote, with Ince at 26.5 per cent, Turkey's official Anadolu news agency said. "Have no fear and don´t believe in demoralising reports", Ince said after polls closed. Videos posted Sunday on social media appeared to show people voting in bulk at a ballot box in the town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.

There is also a Kurdish presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, who is running from behind bars after being imprisoned in November 2016 as part of the purge following the attempted coup.

Erdogan's supporters said only he could ensure political and economic stability in Turkey.

Experts said the key for the People's Alliance to get enough seats lies in the hand of the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party.

Erdogan faces major test as Turks vote for president, parliament