ANKARA, Turkey (Associated Press) – Turkey held landmark parliamentary and presidential elections on Sunday in what is expected to be a hotly contested battle, the biggest ever faced by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his two decades in power. may become an issue.
The vote will either give the increasingly authoritarian President Erdogan a new five-year term, or take what his opponents call a more democratic path for NATO members. Either
Voting begins at 8:00 am (GMT 0500) and ends at 5:00 pm (GMT 1400). The press will be barred from reporting partial results until the embargo is lifted at 9:00 pm (6:00 pm GMT). No exit polls.
Populist President Erdogan, 69, is entering a race to fall behind his rivals for the first time in 20 years in office, polls show. Polls show Kemal Kirikdaroglu, 74, leader of the center-left, pro-secular Republican People’s Party (CHP) and co-candidate of the United Opposition Coalition, with a slight lead. If neither candidate wins more than 50% of the vote, the presidential election will be decided in a runoff on May 28.
More than 64 million people, including 3.4 million overseas voters, are eligible to vote in elections in the year Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary as a republic. Turkey’s voter turnout has traditionally been high, demonstrating the continued belief in this kind of civic participation in a country where freedom of expression and assembly is stifled.
The election comes at a time of economic turmoil in the country, with critics blaming the government’s mismanagement of the economy and the high cost of living.
Turkey, too, has been reeling from the effects of a massive earthquake that devastated 11 southern provinces in February, killing more than 50,000 people in dangerous buildings. Erdogan’s government has been criticized for being slow and stagnant in its response to the disaster, and lax enforcement of building codes that exacerbated the devastation.
Internationally, the election is being watched as a test of the joint opposition’s ability to oust a leader who has concentrated almost all power in the country.
Erdogan has continued to use his domineering position over state resources and the media to lead a divisive election campaign. He accuses the opposition of colluding with “terrorists”, being “hard drinkers” and defending LGBTQ rights, which he said are threats to traditional family values. there is
To persuade voters hit hard by inflation, he increased wages and pensions, subsidized electricity and gas bills, and showcased Turkey’s homegrown defense industry and infrastructure projects.
He has expanded the political alliance between the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and two nationalist parties to include smaller left-wing parties and two Islamist minorities.
The six-party National Alliance, led by Kilikdaroglu, has pledged to dismantle the executive presidential system, which was narrowly passed in a referendum in 2017, and return the country to parliamentary democracy. They promised to establish judiciary and central bank independence, introduce checks and balances, and reverse democratic setbacks and crackdowns on free speech and dissent under Erdogan.
The alliance includes a nationalist good party led by former interior minister Meral Akhtner, two parties split from the AKP and led by former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu and former finance minister Ali Babakan, and a smaller Islamist party. include.
The country’s main Kurdish political party, now Turkey’s second largest rebel group and the government’s target of arrests and lawsuits, is backing Kirikdaroglu in the presidential election.
Sinan Ogan, a former academic backed by an anti-immigrant nationalist party, is also running for president. Another candidate, center-left politician Muharrem Inje, withdrew from the race on Thursday after a sharp decline in his popularity, but the country’s electoral commission deemed his withdrawal null and void. Votes for him will be counted.
Voters will also vote to fill the quorum of 600 parliamentary seats. At least a majority is needed to enact some of the democratic reforms promised by the opposition.
Some have expressed concern that Erdogan will relinquish power if he is defeated. But Erdogan, in an interview with more than a dozen Turkish broadcasters on Friday, said he was in power through democracy and would act in line with democratic processes.
Good Party leader Akhtner appealed for respect after the vote.
“We are now moving to a stage where we have to respect the outcome of the ballot box where people voted freely according to their conscience,” she said.
Polls in 11 earthquake-affected states have raised concerns about the registration of nearly 9 million voters.
About 3 million people have fled the epicenter to other states, but only 133,000 have registered to vote in their new locations. Political parties and non-governmental organizations planned to bus voters, but it was unclear how many would bus voters.
Many of the earthquake survivors will vote in containers that have become improvised polling stations in schoolyards.
In the earthquake-hit Kurdish-majority city of Diyarbakir, Ramazan Akchai arrived early at the polling station to vote.
“God wants democratic elections,” he said. “May it be useful in the name of our country.”
Birginsoy reported from Istanbul. Mucahit Ceylan contributed from Diyarbakir, Turkey.
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