Polls open in Turkey’s most fiercely-fought elections in years – 247 news

Turkey’s main opposition party has expressed alarm after a number of complaints of voting violations as the country goes to the polls in presidential and parliamentary elections today   The Republican People’s Party (CHP), the party of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s main challenger Muharrem Ince, said that party officials had confirmed cases of inconsistencies in the Sanliurfa province ‘From Sanliurfa, there have been many complaints,’ spokesman Bulent Tezcan told reporters in Ankara ‘Our colleagues intervened where (the issues) occurred.’He said complaints had been made to neighbourhood election committee and officials had approached the Higher Election Board (YSK) ‘We are trying to ensure ballot box safety,’ he added.Voting in Istanbul, Erdogan played down any worries about vote security, saying: ‘I have been informed that there is no serious problem across Turkey ‘During the press conference, Tezcan played a video from the district of Suruc in Sanliurfa – which the party said it had confirmed was genuine – in which a man said there were more votes in the ballot box than the number of votes already cast Four people had been killed earlier this month during campaigning in Suruc, an area with a large Kurdish community where the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is expected to poll well Tezcan cited another instance from the Eyyubiye district of Sanliurfa where he said 100 votes had been brought to the ballot box overnight for Erdogan’s ‘People’s Alliance’ of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Tezcan also denounced the presence of armed people in the streets of Suruc, who he said were threatening the election atmosphere ‘They are trying to pressure voters in Suruc. they are trying to create something like a terror atmosphere for voters on election day,’ he warned Analysts say that a transparent vote is crucial for Turkey in the twin legislative and parliamentary elections which are seen as the toughest test Erdogan has undergone at the ballot box Tens of thousands of Turkish citizens are responding to calls from the opposition to monitor the polls for a clean election and a delegation of observers from the OSCE is also in place     Turkey’s state-run news agency, meanwhile, said police have arrested six people for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a campaign rally by his main opponent as Turks go to the polls today The Anadolu Agency said the six were detained yesterday days after videos posted on social media reportedly showed them shouting expletives against Erdogan  The news agency said they were later charged with ‘insulting state elders.’The agency said police were searching for other suspects Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Erdogan has filed close to 2,000 lawsuits against people, including school children, for insulting him  Turks went to the polls this morning in presidential and parliamentary elections that pose the biggest ballot box challenge to Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted AK Party since they swept to power over 15 years ago 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 ‘This stability must continue and that can happen with Erdogan so I voted for him,’ said janitor Mehmet Yildirim, 48, in Istanbul  ‘I also think that with Erdogan, we stand stronger against the West.’.Voting began at 8am (6am BST) and will end at 5pm (3pm BST) 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 galvanized Turkey’s long-demoralised and divided opposition Addressing a rally in Istanbul on Saturday attended by hundreds of thousands of people, Ince promised to reverse what he and opposition parties see as a swing towards authoritarian rule under Erdogan in the country of 81 million people ‘If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to . Fear will continue to reign If Ince wins, the courts will be independent,’ he said, adding he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected  Turkey has been under emergency rule – which restricts some personal freedoms and allows the government to bypass parliament with emergency decrees – for nearly two years following an abortive military coup in July 2016 Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on the preacher’s followers in Turkey  The United Nations say some 160,000 people have been detained and nearly as many more, including teachers, judges and soldiers, sacked Share this article Share The president’s critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent  Few newspapers or other media openly criticise the government and he has received far more election coverage than other presidential candidates ‘This is no longer a Turkey we want. Rights are violated, democracy is in terrible shape,’ said health sector worker Sema, 50, after voting in Istanbul She and others in the city said they voted for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) so that it exceeds the 10 percent threshold of votes needed to enter parliament If it does so, it will be harder for the AKP to get a majority. Erdogan, who defends his tough measures as essential for national security, told his supporters at rallies on Saturday that if re-elected he would press ahead with more of the big infrastructure projects that have helped turn Turkey into one of the world’s fastest-growing economies during his time in office Polls show Erdogan falling short of a first-round victory in the presidential race but he would be expected to win a run-off on July 8, while his AK Party could lose its parliamentary majority, possibly heralding increased tensions between president and parliament Other presidential candidates include Selahattin Demirtas, HDP leader, who is now in jail on terrorism-related charges that he denies In a final appeal for votes in a video clip from his high security prison, Demirtas said: ‘If the HDP fails to get into parliament, all Turkey will lose Backing the HDP means supporting democracy.’    On Friday, a rally held by Ince was blacked out by state broadcasters after he dared Erdogan to ‘confront him’ in a TV debate  At a mass rally in the city of Ankara on Friday, Ince, said: ‘Tomorrow is the last evening If you have the courage, confront me,’ he said. But as he began his speech at another event in Istanbul, he was handed a note saying the broadcast of the rally was ‘down’ on a state TV channel, which he quickly branded ‘sabotage’ on Edrogan’s part Ince has held three rallies in three days in the cities of Ankara and Izmir.   Throwing down the gauntlet to the president, Ince said: ‘Look, that’s my last proposal to you If you want, I can even cancel my Istanbul rally for you. Come, confront me, let’s debate on TV ‘The event was the second giant rally the opposition leader addressed within the space of two days Erdogan, a favourite to win the presidential polls, has in the past rejected the opposition candidate’s proposal for a television debate, saying that ‘I don’t want anyone to get points through me’ Ince has injected a breath of fresh air into the presidential campaign with his dynamism and oratorical skills comparable to those of Erdogan  In Ankara, Ince accused the state-run Anadolu news agency and TRT television of committing a ‘constitutional crime’ for failing to be even-handed ‘TRT aired Erdogan for 181 hours, Muharrem Ince for 15 hours,’ he said.

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