Millions of Turks are heading to the polls today in one of the most fiercely fought presidential and parliamentary elections in the country’s history.
Polls opened at 8am (5am GMT) as Turkey decides whether or not to elect Recep Tayyip Erdogan for a second five-year term.
If Mr Erdogan wins, he will adopt significant new powers that his critics say will weaken “democratic rule”.
His main opposition is Muharrem Ince, from the ardently secular Kemalist Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Turkey remains under a state of emergency which was implemented after the failed coup attempt in July 2016.
Today’s elections were initially scheduled for November 2019 but were brought forward by Mr Erdogan.
The current president and his main rival Mr Ince both held huge rallies yesterday, their final day of campaigning – and they both accused each other of “unfit” to lead Turkey.
Mr Ince, whose campaign has given hope to Turkey’s demoralised Kemalist opposition, promised to stop what he described as regressing back to “authoritarian rule” under Mr Erdogan.
He told more than a million supporters in Istanbul: “If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign. If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”
Mr Ince also said that if elected, he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours.
Emergency rule allows the government to bypass parliament.
President Erdogan – who was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014 – used a powerful and historical metaphor to summarise his hoped-for victory, asking his supporters: “Are we going to give them an Ottoman slap tomorrow?”
He also accused Mr Ince – a former teacher and MP of 16 years – of lacking the skills to lead Turkey.
Mr Erdogan said: “It’s one thing to be a physics teacher, it’s another thing to run a country. Being president needs experience.”
He also told supporters that he planned to push through more major infrastructure projects to boost the economy.
Turkey’s expat votes
The number of Turks that have voted abroad in today’s presidential and parliamentary elections in Turkey increased to a record level of 1.49 million, the head of the High Election Board, Sadi Guven, confirmed on Wednesday.
Turkish expat facts:
- Total number of voters 59.4m – including 3,049,065 outside Turkey
- Germany has 1.4m eligible voters; France 340,000; Netherlands 250,000; Austria 105,000; 100,000 in UK
- Ballot boxes in 123 missions in 60 countries, from Denmark to Uzbekistan
- Voting outside Turkey took place from 7-19 June
- By 20 June, 1.49 million Turks had cast their ballots abroad, a turnout of 48.8%