Polling underway for Turkey elections

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Ankara, June 24 (IANS) Polling was underway on Sunday in Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections where incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking re-election for a new five-year term which he says will bring prosperity and stability to the country.

Polling began at 8 a.m. and will continue till 5.00 p.m. There are a total of 56,322,632 registered voters with 180,065 ballot boxes across the country, reports Anadolu news agency.

Erdogan, who is representing the People’s Alliance formed by the Justice and Development (AK) Party and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), must secure more than 50 per cent of the vote for an outright win.

If the threshold is not reached, a runoff could be held on July 8 between the leading two contenders, Hurriyet Daily News reported.

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Five candidates are in the fray against Erdogan who has been in power since he was elected Prime Minister in 2003.

Deemed his main rival, physics teacher Muharrem Ince is backed by the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and has wooed crowds with an engaging election campaign.

His rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir drew massive numbers.

Also challenging Erdogan is former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, Hurriyet reported.

The only female candidate, Aksener broke away from Turkey’s main nationalist party over its support for Erdogan and formed the centre-right and nationalist Good Party (IYI Party).

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

For the parliamentary polls, eight political parties are in the fray.

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Voters will cast two separate ballot papers in the same envelope — one for the presidential and one for the parliamentary elections.

After the voting ends, ballots cast for the presidential candidates will be counted first.

Some 1.49 million expats voted in a 13-day period between June 7-19 at 123 Turkish missions abroad.

Whoever wins the election will be given sweeping new powers, as the role of Prime Minister is dissolved and the President gains the authority to issue laws by decree, reports CNN.

Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics since 2003.

He implemented policies that encouraged sustained economic growth and development, challenged Turkey’s secular foundations by bringing Islamic conservatism to public life and gutted public institutions by having tens of thousands arrested following a failed military coup in 2016.

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