Turkey goes to the polls in crucial election

Erika Holt
June 24, 2018

Polls across the country officially closed at 5 p.m. local time in the elections where previously divided opposition parties have come together in a tenuous alliance in an effort to end what they call Erdogan's march toward "one-man rule".

And Aksener casted her vote in Istanbul, before she travelled to Ankara where she said that she would follow election results.

The results, expected later today, could - assuming he wins the presidential poll -dramatically strengthen Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's hold on power, giving him sweeping new executive powers approved in a referendum a year ago.

Turkey has been under emergency rule - which restricts some freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with decrees - for almost two years since an attempted coup in 2016.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens - including 3 million expatriates - are eligible to vote in Sunday's elections.

Erdogan, who held five rallies in Istanbul on June 23, called on supporters to be vigilant at the polling stations. There were reports of a scuffle at the polling station in Suruc and voting was briefly halted there.

The constitutional overhaul would mean that Erdogan could stay in power for another two terms until 2029.

Voting on Istanbul's Asian side, 59-year-old Sebnem Uzgit said: "Our hope is Muharrem Ince".

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Four other candidates are also running for presidency.

Experts said the key for the People's Alliance to get enough seats lies in the hand of the Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party. "I hope that we will wake up to a more lovely day tomorrow".

The campaign coverage has been lopsided in favor of Erdogan who directly or indirectly controls a majority of Turkey's media.

The observers will prepare a report by monitoring the campaigning process, on election participation and on whether worldwide election standards were upheld.

"Questions will find their answers late on June 24, but one thing is pretty certain: Turkey will be entering a very new era, whether through a change in the political leadership or through a change in the government system", wrote columnist Serkan Demirtas on in the English-language Hurriyet Daily News.

Peter Osusky, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, told The Associated Press that all observers "are strongly adhering to so-called code of conduct" regardless of their political opinions. Ballot papers that don't bear the official stamps will still be considered valid - a measure that led to allegations of fraud in last year's referendum.

Voter fairness NGO Oy Ve Otesi (Vote and Beyond), was founded in 2014 and said its ability to mobilise volunteers to monitor voting at polling stations has increased with every election, as more Turks become engaged in the voting process. Some will even have to pass through security checkpoints to vote.

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

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