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The people of Turkey go to the polls for snap presidential and parliamentary elections The people of Turkey go to the polls for snap presidential and parliamentary elections  (AFP or licensors)

Opposition mounts stiff challenge in Turkish election

Turkish people are voting in snap presidential and parliamentary elections seen as the biggest challenge to President Erdogan since he came to power 15-years-ago.

By Nathan Morley

If he wins this election, President Erdogan will push ahead with scrapping the post of Prime Minister –a measure his opponents insist will erode democracy.

But despite leading in most opinion polls, the veteran leader has a huge fight on his hands. His critics say his star is fading, and his rallies are not as vibrant and as busy as ever.

Turkey is a deeply divided nation. One poll even predicted President Erdogan falling short of a first-round victory, but he is seeking some comfort, as the same poll forecast him winning in a run-off.

Five candidates are taking on the incumbent, two of them considered to be ‘serious challengers.’ They are opposition leader Muharrem Ince from the Republican People's Party and former interior minister Meral Aksener, known as the new face of the centre-right.

Selahattin Demirtas, the Kurdish leader who has been in jail since late 2016, is campaigning, from his tiny cell in a high security prison – where he is accused of distributing propaganda for militants fighting against Turkey.

Just prior to the vote, Ince issued a stark warning at a rally Istanbul, saying, ‘If Erdogan wins… your phones will continue to be listened to... Fear will continue to reign.’ Ince, 54, appeals to both secular and religious voters and his known for his constant jibes against Erdogan. Should he win, Ince has promised to be the ‘president of 81 million Turks, whether right, left, Sunni, Turkish and Kurdish.’

In recent weeks, Erdogan and his rivals have made frenzied dashes across the country, speaking to a public sharply divided over a multitude of issues. For most people, the economy tops their list of concerns.

Economic worries

The Turkish lira has fallen in value, along with growing inflation which has seen extremely unpopular prices rises. Other worries include an erosion of press freedoms and a huge crackdown after a failed coup in 2016, which has resulted in the arrest of tens of thousands of people.

In fact, Turkey still remains under a state-of-emergency. A spate of terrorist attacks on Turkish soil in recent years claimed by Kurdish militants and the so-called Islamic State has shaken the country.

There is some relief that the vital tourist sector is starting to recover, after a spat with Moscow resulted in a slump in holidaymakers from Russia. Last year, President Erdogan and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed to repair strained relations.

Election days are dry days in Turkey, and until midnight, the sale of alcoholic beverages and their consumption in public places is banned.

More than 55 million people registered to vote at 180,000 ballot boxes. If a second round is called, it will take place on Sunday, July 8th.

Listen to Nathan Morley's report

 

 

24 June 2018, 17:18