Erdogan, ruling AK Party take early lead in Turkish elections

Erdogan, ruling AK Party take early lead in Turkish elections

Ankara, Jun 24 (Just News): Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his ruling AK Party have taken an early lead in presidential and parliamentary elections, according to preliminary partial results, boosting the president's hopes of extending his 15-year rule.

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

With about 30% of votes counted in the presidential race, Mr Erdogan had 58%, well ahead of his closest rival, Muharrem Ince, of the main opposition, secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), on 27.5%, broadcasters said.

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

In the parliamentary contest, the AK Party had 53.03%, based on 10.25% of votes counted, the broadcasters said.

The CHP had 14.82% and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 7.07%.

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

The vote ushers in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Mr 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.

Earlier, a crowd of Mr Erdogan's supporters chanted his name as he emerged from a school after voting in Turkey's largest city Istanbul, shaking hands with people amid tight security.

"Turkey is staging a democratic revolution," he told eporters in the polling station. "With the presidential system,Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilisations."

Mr 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, and deal with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighbouring Iraq and Syria.

Muharrem Ince is running against Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Voicing opposition concerns about possible electoral fraud, Mr Ince told reporters outside the High Electoral Board (YSK) after polling stations had closed that citizens should protect ballot boxes.

He also urged YSK members to "do your job the right way", adding he believed the results would be "very good".

Opposition parties and NGOs deployed up to half a million monitors at ballot boxes to ward against fraud.

They have said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raised fears about the vote's fairness.

Earlier, a CHP spokesman said the party had reported to the YSK allegations of block votes being cast and of election monitors being beaten and kept out of polling stations in the southeast's Sanliurfa province.

YSK chairman Sadi Guven told the state-owned news agency Anadolu it was taking steps in response to reports of irregularities in the town of Suruc near the Syrian border.

The government gave no immediate response to the reports, but Mr Erdogan said there had not been any serious problems.

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.

Mr Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on his followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.

The president's critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Mr Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent.

Mr Ince told a rally on Saturday he would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected president.

He also vowed to reverse what opposition parties see as Turkey's swing towards authoritarian rule under Mr Erdogan.