Turks to decide on Erdogan this Sunday

Nellie Chapman
June 24, 2018

By order of the Supreme Election Council (YSK), all campaigning and opinion broadcasts ahead of Sunday's presidential and parliamentary elections ended as of 6 p.m. local time (1500 GMT) on Saturday.

Over 56 million Turkish voters will for the first time in history be voting simultaneously in parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Muharrem Ince, a passionate politician from the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), was at a huge rally in Ankara where he directly addressed his opponent.

The poll is especially significant because it represents the final phase in a constitutional transformation kicked off in last year's controversial referendum, ushering in a powerful new role for the president.

Mr Erdogan is on the cusp of assuming a more powerful presidential role but may lose important political legitimacy in the process, and Turkey - a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation western military alliance with a major role in the Middle East - is about to enter an uncertain new era. "If Ince wins, the courts will be independent", said Ince, adding he would lift Turkey's state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected.

Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on the preacher's followers in Turkey. Few newspapers or other media now openly criticise the government and he has received far more election coverage than other presidential candidates.

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won 12 electoral contests in the last 16 years. But halfway through Ince's rally, mainstream Turkish media switched over to a second Erdogan speech as he crisscrossed Istanbul, appearing in several districts. He is running for president from a maximum security prison. If not, it could damage his image and change the outcome.

Selahattin Demirtas is the youngest candidate in the race.

Whatever happens, this untested system and a divided electorate all but guarantee more instability in Turkey.

No matter what happens, the result will be important for Turkey's future.

Mr Erdogan is hopeful of increasing Turkey's power on the world stage.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including some 3 million living overseas, are eligible to vote on Sunday.

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