Web Desk (June 24, 2018): Turks began voting today for a new president and parliament in elections that pose the biggest challenge to Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) since they swept to power more than a decade and a half ago.
Voting started at 8am local time (1000 PST) and ends at 5pm (1900 PST). Nearly 60 million Turks are eligible to vote, out of a total population of 81 million.
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[embedded content]The elections will also usher 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.
Erdogan, the most popular but also divisive leader in modern Turkish history, moved the elections forward from November 2019, arguing the new powers would better enable him to tackle the nation’s mounting economic problems — the lira has lost 20 per cent against the dollar this year — and deal with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.But he reckoned without Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP), whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanised Turkey’s long-demoralised and divided opposition.