Erdogan leads early count in pivotal Turkey poll

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks new term with greater powers

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks new term with greater powers

POLLS have opened in Turkey's joint presidential and parliamentary elections, seen as the biggest test at the ballot box for President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of his 15 years in power.

Mr Erdogan's main challenger is 54-year-old former physics teacher Mr 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. If no candidate wins more than 50 percent in Sunday's vote, a second round run-off will be held on July 8.

She voted for the pro-Kurdish, left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) and their presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas - who campaigned from prison after being jailed on terrorism charges his supporters say are bogus - in the hope that they could pass the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament.

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 Mr. Erdogan's opponents and encourage election monitors to stop scrutinising the counting of votes.

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Over 56 million eligible voters can for the first time cast ballots simultaneously in the parliamentary and presidential elections, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

Erdogan's closest competitor, Ince, vowed that he would lift the state of emergency within 48 hours if elected president and reverse all the constitutional reforms afterward.

The voters had to present a medical report explaining their reason for being unable to come to polling stations.

Erdogan said there had been no serious voting violations. "With the presidential system, Turkey is seriously raising the bar, rising above the level of contemporary civilizations".

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Erdogan needs over 50% to retain the presidency in the first round, but these are still early results and the outcome could yet change.

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 percent against the dollar this year - and deal with Kurdish rebels in southeast Turkey and in neighboring Iraq and Syria.

According to Skynews, on Saturday, up to a million people turned out for one of the last opposition campaign rallies ahead of Sunday's elections.

Following the coup attempt, Turkey has arrested more than 40,000 people and sacked or suspended more than 100,000 in the military, civil service and private sector. Erdogan accused his late ally and now nemesis, US-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, of masterminding the coup.

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A search of the woman's home was underway to know whether "she has links or not with Daesh", said BFMTV . France has been plagued by a series of terrorist attacks and has remained on high alert since 2015.

Erdogan says his tough measures are needed to safeguard national security. If it does so, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority.

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