Polls open in Turkey's high-stakes elections

2018-06-24 09:28

Polls opened for Turkey's high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday, which could consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's hold on power or curtail his political ambitions.

Voters began gathering outside polling centres to cast their ballots in the elections that complete Turkey's transition to a new executive presidential system that was approved in a controversial referendum last year.

Erdogan, 64, is seeking re-election for a new five-year term with vastly increased powers under the new system, which he insists will bring prosperity and stability to Turkey, especially after a 2016 failed coup attempt. His ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament.

Erdogan — who has been in power since 2003 — is however facing a more robust and united opposition, which has vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances. It has decried what it calls Erdogan's "one-man rule".


Five candidates are running against Erdogan in the presidential race. Although Erdogan is seen as the front-runner, he must secure more than 50 percent of the vote for an outright win on Sunday. If the threshold is not reached, a runoff could be held on July 8 between the leading two contenders.

Erdogan's main challenger is 54-year-old combative former physics teacher Muharrem Ince, who is backed by the centre-left main opposition Republican People's Party, or CHP, and has wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging election campaign. His rallies in Turkey's three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir drew massive numbers.

Also challenging Erdogan is 61-year-old former interior minister Meral Aksener. The only woman candidate, she broke away from Turkey's main nationalist party over its support for Erdogan and formed the centre-right and nationalist Good Party.

Selahattin Demirtas, the candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party, or HDP, was forced to run his campaign from prison, where he is being held in pre-trial detention on terrorism-related charges. Demirtas maintains his imprisonment is politically-motivated.

Turkey will also be electing 600 lawmakers to parliament — 50 more than in the previous assembly. The constitutional changes have allowed parties to form alliances, paving the way for Ince and Aksener's parties to join a small Islamist party in the "Nation Alliance" against Erdogan.

The pro-Kurdish HDP was left out of the alliance and needs to pass a 10 percent threshold to win seats in parliament. If the party passes the threshold, it could cost Erdogan's AKP and its nationalist ally in the "People Alliance" dozens of seats — leading it to lose its parliamentary majority.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens — including 3 million expatriates — are eligible to vote in the elections, which were called more than a year earlier than scheduled in what analysts say was a pre-emptive move by Erdogan ahead of a possible economic downturn.

Read more on:    recep tayyip erdogan  |  turkey

Join the conversation!

24.com encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire 24.com network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.