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Erdogan, ruling AK Party build early lead in Turkish elections

If no presidential candidate wins more than 50% in Sunday’s vote, a second round run-off will be held on 8 July.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. Picture: AFP.

ANKARA - Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party took the lead in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, according to preliminary partial results, boosting the president’s hopes of extending his 15-year rule.

However, the early results had been expected to give Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted party a strong lead and it was expected to shorten as more votes are tallied across the nation of 81 million people.

With about half of votes counted in the presidential race, Erdogan had 57%, well ahead of his closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition, secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), on 29%, broadcasters said.

If no presidential candidate wins more than 50% in Sunday’s vote, a second round run-off will be held on 8 July.

An AK Party official said it expected Erdogan to win the election outright in the first round with at least 51%.
In the parliamentary contest, the AK Party had 47%, based on 40% of votes counted, broadcasters said. The CHP had 19% and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) 9%.

Turnout nationwide was high at around 87% for both contests, the state broadcaster said.

Sunday’s vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the NATO member state and entrench one-man rule.

FRAUD FEARS

CHP party spokesman Bulent Tezcan criticised state media coverage of the election results, saying they were trying to manipulate the public’s perception of the results in order to demoralise Erdogan’s opponents and encourage election monitors to stop scrutinising the counting of votes.

Tezcan said the CHP’s own voting tally suggested that support for Erdogan remained below the 50% required to win the presidency in the first round.

Opposition parties and NGOs have deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against possible electoral fraud. They have said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raise fears about the fairness of Sunday’s elections.

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations.

“Turkey is staging a democratic revolution,” he told reporters after casting his own vote in Istanbul on Sunday.

“With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilisations.”

Erdogan, the most popular but also divisive leader in modern Turkish history, argues the new powers will better enable him to tackle the nation’s economic problems - the lira has lost 20% against the dollar this year - and crush Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

He brought forward the elections from November 2019, but he reckoned without Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanized Turkey’s long-demoralised and divided opposition.

Turkey has been under emergency rule - which restricts some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees - for nearly two years since an attempted coup in 2016.