Pres. Erdogan facing tough challenge in upcoming election

Geraldine Edwards
June 24, 2018

Polls opened for Turkey's high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24 to complete the country's transition to a new executive presidential system that was approved in a tight referendum a year ago. The victor will get new sweeping powers under a constitutional shake-up approved in a referendum past year.

Turks began voting on Sunday in presidential and parliamentary elections that pose the biggest challenge to Tayyip Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party since they swept to power more than a decade and a half ago.

"The presidency requires experience", said the man who has led Turkey since 2003 as prime minister and since 2014 as the country's first directly elected president.

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Erdogan, 64, also promised to deliver more of the big infrastructure projects that have characterised his time in power and helped make him the most popular - if also the most divisive - leader of modern Turkish history.

Experts said the lira depreciation, higher unemployment rate and inflation rate, all those symptoms of a sluggish economy had become a heavy burden on Mr Erdogan. His rallies in Turkey's three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir drew massive numbers.

If he fails, he'll be forced into a July 8 runoff with the most successful opposition candidate, most likely Muharrem Ince of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP).

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The votes of Turkey's Kurdish minority will be especially crucial in the parliamentary poll.

Erdogan has at times seemed on the defensive, making promises to lift the state of emergency imposed after the coup bid and ensuring the 3.5 million Syrian refugees in Turkey go home only after similar pledges by Ince.

But in a situation labelled as blatant unfairness by activists, the HDP's presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas has campaigned from a prison cell after his November 2016 arrest on charges of links to outlawed Kurdish militants. If the party passes the threshold, it could cost the "People Alliance" dozens of seats. State-run TRT Haber news channel did now show Ince's speech live at all while only parts were broadcast on privately-owned CNN-Turk.

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Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are responding to calls from the opposition to monitor the polls for a clean election from the opening of polls at 8 a.m.to their close at 5 p.m.

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