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Erdogan’s election victory praised around world

25.06.2018

By Adel Abdelrheem Humaida Elfadol, Menna Ahmed and Abdel Rauof Arnaout

ANKARA

Prominent leaders and personalities from around the world on Monday continued to praise President Recep Tayyip Erdogan following his historic election win on Sunday.

Sudan’s ruling National Congress Party said the Turkish election results indicate “Turkish nation’s trust for AK Party and its alliances, and support for Erdogan and his party’s policies.”

The leader of the National Coalition for Syrian Revolutionary and Opposition Forces, Abdurrahman Mustafa also congratulated the president over his election victory “which revealed the Turkish people’s confidence in Erdogan’s leadership”. Mustafa added he hopes Turkey would continue supporting Syrians in establishing their own democratic and independent country.

In a Twitter message, the chairman of Qatar-based International Union of Muslim Scholars, Yousef al-Qaradawi, congratulated Erdogan and the Turkish nation “for their success in the democracy wedding”.

The general observer of the Muslim Brotherhood in Sudan, Awadallah Hassan, also congratulated Erdogan over his election success in a Facebook post.

Malaysian opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim expressed his “heartiest congratulations” in a letter to the Turkish president, in which he said: “I also congratulate the people of Turkey for their peaceful participation in their nation’s democratic process.”

Ibrahim said Erdogan’s victory was also a victory for the Muslim world “in portraying a modern and progressive face of Islam”.

Sheikh Ekrima Sabri, the head of Jerusalem’s Supreme Islamic Authority and the imam of the iconic Al-Aqsa Mosque, said Sunday’s election results was the reaffirmation of the Turkish people’s trust in President Erdogan.

“The election atmosphere in Turkey is a cultural indicator of the Turkish people.

“They have said their word and placed their trust in President Recep Tayyip Erdogan with all the objectivity and transparency,” Sabri said.

Erdogan’s success ‘meant for all Muslims’

Speaking to Anadolu Agency, American Muslim opinion leaders said Erdogan’s success meant a lot for the Muslims living around the globe.

The head of the Council on American-Islamic Relations, Nihad Awad, congratulated the Turkish nation for the successful election, saying that a high voter turnout marked the polls.

Oussama Jamal, the secretary-general of the U.S. Council of Muslim Organizations, said the Turkish elections were held in democratic maturity and sent a message to the world.

The executive director of the Chicago-based charity Zakat Foundation, Halil Demir also said President Erdogan proved that he was not the president of his ruling AK Party, but the entire country.

Vladimir Potapenko, the deputy secretary-general of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization — one of the observer organizations for Turkey’s Sunday elections — said in a news conference: “The elections is conducted in accordance with the legislation in force in Turkey, we confirm that all conditions necessary were provided for it.”

He added that their mission termed the elections as “transparent, impartial and democratic”.

Moulana Shabbier Ahmed Saloojee, the rector of Darul Uloom Zakariyya — South Africa’s largest Islamic university — congratulated President Erdogan in a message.

“All Muslims in the world will continue to take benefit from President Erdogan’s leadership, together with the Turkish nation,” he said.

Early Monday morning, Turkey’s Supreme Election Council (YSK) announced that President Recep Tayyip Erdogan won absolute majority in the presidential election after 97.7 percent of ballot boxes were opened.

YSK head Sadi Guven also said Justice and Development (AK) Party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and Good (IYI) Party surpassed the 10 percent threshold in the parliamentary election.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/turkey/erdogans-election-victory-praised-around-world/1186598.

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What’s next for Turkey after vote grants Erdogan vast powers

June 25, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is ushering in a new era for Turkey after weekend elections saw him win a presidency granting him the vastly expanded executive powers he has long sought. But his governing party saw its parliamentary majority slip, leaving him reliant on the support of a small nationalist party.

Critics have reacted with alarm to Erdogan’s victory, saying the results usher in what will effectively be one-man rule, putting someone with increasingly autocratic and intolerant tendencies at the helm of a strategically significant NATO country.

Here is a look at what’s at stake, and what the election results mean for Turkey and its international relations.

ECONOMY

The fate of Turkey’s increasingly shaky economy is critical, and much will depend on how Erdogan handles it. In his victory speech, he said his goal was to make his country one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2023, the centenary of the Turkish Republic. But how he will achieve that is unclear.

Turkey has been hit by rising inflation and a struggling currency, which has lost about 20 percent of its value against the dollar since the start of the year. Although the country’s economy grew by about 7 percent last year, analysts warn this was largely fueled by unsustainable grandiose construction projects.

“There are lots of fragilities. When we look at the overall macro picture, the inflation is high, exchange rate is high, interest rates are high, fiscal deficit is high, current account deficit is high,” said economic analyst Ozlem Derici Sengul.

Fadi Hakura of the London-based Chatham House think tank predicted that Turkey is heading toward an economic crisis in the next five years, but noted there were no signs Erdogan would change course on the economy.

“He will continue pursuing the very populist economic policies that are leading Turkey to economic ruin,” Hakura said. “There are no indications that Erdogan will reverse course in terms of his economic populist agenda.”

“That means loosening the purse strings, restraining interest rates, and boosting construction and mega infrastructure projects, as well as supplying cheap credit to consumers and Turkish business. The very policies that are now degrading the value of the lira vis-a-vis the dollar and the euro,” he said.

Erdogan, Hakura noted, is “obsessed with a super-high growth rate, way beyond the capacity of the Turkish economy. And that’s what will lead to economic ruin in Turkey.”

“He’s pursuing Ferrari growth rates while being a … mid-sized car,” Hakura said.

DEMOCRACY AND HUMAN RIGHTS

The new system abolishes the prime minister’s position, and grants the president power to appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies. Erdogan, who set the changes in motion with a 2017 referendum, insists this will lead to greater stability and prosperity.

But many fear it puts too much power in the hands of the president in a country lacking the checks and balances of other presidential democracies, such as the United States or France.

“Turkey has cut off its ties with democratic values,” said Muharrem Ince of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party, who came in second in Sunday’s presidential race. “It has transitioned to a one-man regime in the fullest sense.”

France and the U.S. have independent judiciaries, a free press, independent institutions and party-based politics, noted Hakura of Chatham House.

“Those kinds of institutional checks and balances are non-existent … or at least are very weak in Turkey,” Hakura said. “One cannot say that the legal system in Turkey is independent. The national media is completely under government (control) or is loyal to Erdogan.”

Sunday’s elections took place under a state of emergency imposed by Erdogan’s government after a failed 2016 coup. About 50,000 people have been jailed and more than 110,000 civil servants fired in the massive government crackdown. In the run-up to Sunday’s vote, Erdogan had said he would lift the state of emergency if re-elected — something long called for by opposition figures and rights groups.

The candidate who came in third in the presidential election, Selahattin Demirtas, ran his entire campaign from a maximum security prison, where he is being held pending trial on terrorism charges he says are trumped up and politically motivated. The pro-Kurdish HDP party he ran for managed to win enough votes to enter parliament despite nine of its lawmakers, including Demirtas, and thousands of its party members being jailed.

“I think it’s quite clear that human rights conditions in Turkey will probably worsen,” given that the small nationalist party Erdogan has allied with, Devlet Bahceli’s Nationalist Movement Party, or MHP, is even more to the right than Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, Hakura said. “There’s no indication that Erdogan will relax the tightening environment that Turkey is now laboring under in terms of media freedoms, human rights and civil liberties.”

FOREIGN POLICY

How the election results will affect Turkey’s foreign policy will also be a closely watched topic. The country of 81 million people is a significant player on the regional stage, with often tricky, frequently changing relations with neighbors and allies.

The “elections haven’t changed anything” regarding the country’s international relations, said Kerem Oktem, a professor at the University of Graz in Austria, predicting a “continuation of not strategic but tactical foreign policy” in which Ankara veers toward Russia but doesn’t distance itself completely from the West.

Erdogan has frequently taken a combative stance in recent years, particularly against the European Union and the United States following their criticism of his crackdown in the aftermath of the failed 2016 coup. Turkey’s bid to join the EU has come to a stumbling halt, with no indication of renewed efforts to jump-start the process.

Relations with the U.S. have also faltered. Washington has been backing and arming a Kurdish militia in northern Syria to combat the Islamic State group, enraging the Erdogan government, which considers it a terror organization linked to a Kurdish insurgency in southeastern Turkey. More recently, the U.S. Congress raised objections to Turkey’s purchase of F-35 fighter jets after Ankara said it was buying the Russian S-400 missile air defense system.

Ankara is also furious Washington has not extradited Fetullah Gulen, a U.S.-based cleric who Erdogan has accused of orchestrating the failed coup. Gulen denies involvement.

Turkey’s relations with Russia have seen dramatic fluctuations, with ties recently warming following a long frosty period after Turkey shot down a Russian warplane taking part in the campaign to support Syrian President Bashar Assad’s government in 2015. Russian President Vladimir Putin was among the first foreign leaders to congratulate Erdogan on his election win Sunday.

Turkey also has a significant stake in neighboring Syria, where it mounted a military operation in the north and now controls about 4,000 square kilometers (1,500 square miles) of Syrian territory.

Analysts Oktem and Hakura predicted a continuation of operations against Kurdish fighters in Syria and northern Iraq, with the latter noting that Erdogan’s alliance with the nationalist MHP party would solidify the government’s stance.

“If anything, the MHP is skeptical of the relations with the U.S. and would support a more robust military adventure” against Kurdish fighters in northern Iraq, Hakura said. “It’s lukewarm towards Russia.”

The alliance with the MHP will not bring about “any dramatic changes in Turkish foreign policy, except the bilateral relations with Europe and the United States will continue to be testy and challenging,” he said.

Associated Press writers Zeynep Bilginsoy and Bram Janssen in Istanbul contributed to this report.

Turkey’s victorious Erdogan set to assume sweeping powers

June 25, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for the past 15 years, prepared Monday to extend his rule and take on sweeping new powers after his victory in the country’s landmark presidential and parliamentary elections.

Turkey’s High Electoral Board declared Erdogan, 64, the winner of Sunday’s votes, which usher in a new executive presidential system in which the prime minister’s post is eliminated and executive powers are transferred to the president, who rules with only limited checks and balances.

The Turkish leader is accused by critics of adopting increasingly authoritarian tactics but is loved by supporters for bringing prosperity and stability. Erdogan may be facing rough times ahead, however, because analysts predict an economic downturn for Turkey amid rising inflation and a struggling currency.

His win could also deepen Turkey’s rift with its Western and NATO allies, who are already concerned by the country’s setbacks in democracy and human rights as well as Turkey’s closer ties with Russia. Russian President Vladimir Putin sent Erdogan a telegram on Monday, congratulating him on his victory, one of the first world leaders to do so.

Turkey’s currency, the lira, rallied Monday over Erdogan’s victory, which reduces instability in the short term. In his victory speech, Erdogan said he would work toward achieving his goal of making Turkey one of the world’s top 10 economies by 2023, when the Turkish Republic marks its centenary.

He also pledged a more “determined” fight against outlawed Kurdish rebels and alleged members of a movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom he accuses of orchestrating a 2016 failed coup against his government. Gulen denies involvement.

Some 50,000 people have been arrested and more than 110,000 civil servants have been fired in a massive government crackdown that has taken place under a state of emergency imposed after the coup that is still in place.

“Turkey made its choice in favor of a more determined fight against the PKK (Kurdistan Workers Party) and (Gulenists),” Erdogan said. “We will go after terror organizations with stronger determination.”

Under the new system, Erdogan himself will appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies. According to unofficial results that have yet to be confirmed by the electoral board, Erdogan garnered 52.5 percent of the presidential vote, while his ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, won 42.5 percent of the parliamentary vote. Erdogan’s closest contender, Muharrem Ince of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party, won 30.7 percent support.

Erdogan’s AKP fell short of winning a parliamentary majority but a better-than-expected performance by its nationalist ally should allow the party to control the 600-seat legislature. Ince, who complained that it was an unfair election, accepted Erdogan’s victory during a news conference Monday.

“There are no significant differences between our records and the Supreme Election Council’s records,” Ince told reporters. “I accept the results of the elections.” The former physics teacher, who led a robust campaign against Erdogan, called on him to end his divisive policies.

“Be the president of 81 million (Turks), embrace everyone,” he said. “That’s what I would have done if I had won.” Still, the 54-year-old politician criticized Turkey’s new system, saying: “Turkey has cut off its ties with democratic values… (Turkey) has transitioned to a one-man regime in the fullest sense.”

Before the start of the news conference, Ince asked a crew from Turkey’s state television TRT to leave the hall, criticizing the publicly-funded organization for ignoring the opposition’s campaign rallies and not allowing other candidates equal airtime to Erdogan during the race. The TRT journalists left.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, whose presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas was forced to campaign from jail, received the more than 10 percent of the vote Sunday, enough to win seats in parliament. In reaction, thousands of its supporters spilled into the streets in celebration.

In a series of Twitter postings, Demirtas praised the party’s success in winning a projected 67 seats out of 600, according to unofficial results. “The fact that I was forced to campaign in detention conditions was the greatest injustice,” Demirtas said. “While other candidates could stage 100 campaign rallies, I was able to send out 100 tweets.”

Demirtas, who won 8.4 percent in the presidential race, has been in pre-trial detention since November 2016 on terror-related charges. He denies any wrongdoing. Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, said Monday it was now up to Erdogan to decide whether Turkey’s relations with the European Union will improve.

Margot Wallstrom, Sweden’s foreign minister, said Turkey’s democracy has shortcomings — she cited opposition leaders sitting in jail — but said Erdogan should be given the chance to do that. “We are hoping for the end of the state of emergency (in Turkey,” she told reporters in Brussels.

Elena Becatoros and Zeynep Bilginsoy in Istanbul and Burhan Ozbilici in Ankara contributed.

Erdogan proclaimed winner of Turkey’s presidential election

June 25, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was proclaimed the winner early Monday of a landmark election that ushers in a government system granting the president sweeping new powers and which critics say will cement what they call a one-man rule.

The presidential vote and a parliamentary election, both held more than a year early, completed NATO-member Turkey’s transition from a parliamentary system to a presidential one, a process started with a voter referendum last year.

“The nation has entrusted to me the responsibility of the presidency and the executive duty,” Erdogan said in televised remarks from Istanbul after a near-complete count carried by the state-run Anadolu news agency gave him the majority needed to avoid a runoff.

The head of Turkey’s Supreme Election Council, Sadi Guven, declared Erdogan the winner early Monday after 97.7 of votes had been counted. The electoral board plans to announce final official results on June 29.

Based on unofficial results, five parties passed the 10 percent support threshold required for parties to enter parliament, Guven said. “This election’s victor is democracy, this election’s victory is national will,” Erdogan told a cheering crowd outside his party headquarters in Ankara early Monday, adding that Turkey “will look at its future with so much more trust than it did this morning.”

Earlier, cheering Erdogan supporters waving Turkish flags gathered outside his official residence in Istanbul, chanting “Here’s the president, here’s the commander.” “Justice has been served!” said Cihan Yigici, one of those in the crowd.

Thousands of jubilant supporters of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, also spilled into the streets of the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir after unofficial results from Anadolu showed the party surpassing the 10 percent threshold and coming in third with 11.5 percent of the parliamentary vote.

The HDP’s performance was a success, particularly considering it campaigned with nine of its lawmakers, including its presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, and thousands of party members in jail. It says more than 350 of its election workers have been detained since April 28.

Revelers waved HDP flags and blared car horns. One party supporter, Nejdet Erke, said he had been “waiting for this emotion” since the morning. Erdogan, 64, insisted the expanded powers of the Turkish presidency will bring prosperity and stability to the country, especially after a failed military coup attempt in 2016. A state of emergency imposed after the coup remains in place.

Some 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 civil servants have been fired under the emergency, which opposition lawmakers say Erdogan has used to stifle dissent. The new system of government abolished the office of prime minister and empowers the president to take over an executive branch and form the government. He will appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies.

The Turkish Parliament will legislate and have the right to ratify or reject the budget. With Erdogan remaining at the helm of his party, a loyal parliamentary majority could reduce checks and balances on his power unless the opposition can wield an effective challenge.

Erdogan’s apparent win comes at a critical time for Turkey. He recently has led a high-stakes foreign affairs gamble, cozying up to Russian President Vladimir Putin with pledges to install a Russian missile defense system in the NATO-member country.

The president’s critics have warned that Erdogan’s re-election would cement his already firm grip on power and embolden a leader they accuse of showing increasingly autocratic tendencies. According to Anadolu, the near-complete results showed Erdogan winning an outright majority of 52.5 percent, far ahead of the 30.7 percent received by his main challenger, the secular Muharrem Ince.

The HDP’s imprisoned Demirtas was in third place with 8.3 percent according to Anadolu. Demirtas has been jailed pending trial on terrorism-related charges he has called trumped-up and politically motivated.

But Ince said the results carried on Anadolu were not a true reflection of the official vote count by the country’s electoral board. The main opposition party that nominated him for the presidency, the CHP, said it was waiting for the commission’s official announcement.

Erdogan also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, an electoral coalition between his ruling Justice and Development Party and the small Nationalist Movement Party, saying they had a “parliamentary majority” in the 600-member assembly.

The unofficial results for the parliamentary election showed Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, losing its majority, with 293 seats in the 600-seat legislature. However, the small nationalist party the AKP was allied with garnered 49 seats.

“Even though we could not reach out goal in parliament, God willing we will be working to solve that with all our efforts in the People’s Alliance,” Erdogan said. The president, who has never lost an election and has been in power since 2003, initially as prime minister, had faced a more robust, united opposition than ever before. Opposition candidates had vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they call Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”

Erdogan enjoys considerable support in the conservative and pious heartland, having empowered previously disenfranchised groups. From a modest background himself, he presided over an infrastructure boom that modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam’s profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.

But critics say he became increasingly autocratic and intolerant of dissent. The election campaign was heavily skewed in his favor, with opposition candidates struggling to get their speeches aired on television in a country where Erdogan directly or indirectly controls most of the media.

Ince, a 54-year-old former physics teacher, was backed by the center-left opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging campaign, drawing massive numbers at his rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including 3 million expatriates, were eligible to vote.

Fraser reported from Ankara. Bram Janssen in Istanbul, Sinan Yilmaz in Diyarbakir and Mehmet Guzel in Ankara contributed.

Turkey: Erdogan leading presidential race

June 24, 2018

ISTANBUL (AP) — Early partial results in Turkey’s presidential elections Sunday showed incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the lead, with challenger Muharrem Ince in second place. The high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections could consolidate Erdogan’s grip on power or curtail his vast political ambitions. The vote will complete Turkey’s transition to a new executive presidential system, a move approved in a controversial referendum last year.

For an outright win in the presidential race, Erdogan needs more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a run-off on July 8. Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said that with 32 percent of the country’s ballot boxes counted, Erdogan was at 57.7 percent of the vote, with Ince at 27.8 percent. Imprisoned candidate Selahattin Demirtas was garnering 5.9 percent.

In the parliamentary vote, with 13 percent of ballot boxes counted, Erdogan’s People Alliance, which includes his AK party and a small nationalist party, stood at 64 percent, while the opposition Nation Alliance grouping together nationalists, secularists and a small Islamic-leaning party, was at 26.2 percent.

The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, was below the 10 percent threshold to enter parliament, with 7.6 percent. Erdogan, 64, is seeking re-election for a five-year term with hugely increased powers under the new system, which he insists will bring prosperity and stability to Turkey, especially after a failed coup attempt in 2016 that has left the country under a state of emergency. His ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament.

Ince, speaking just after polls closed, warned civil servants involved in the vote count to do their jobs “abiding by the law” and without fear, suggesting they were under pressure by the government. He asked all Turks to be vigilant at polls and not be “demoralized” by what he called the possible manipulation of news.

Erdogan, who has been in power since 2003, has faced a more robust, united opposition this time. Opposition candidates vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they call Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”

Erdogan, who has never lost an election, is the most powerful leader since the founder of the Turkish republic, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He remains popular in the conservative and pious heartland, having empowered previously disenfranchised groups.

From modest background himself, Erdogan has presided over an infrastructure boom that has modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam’s profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.

Five candidates were running against Erdogan in the presidential race. “With these elections, Turkey is achieving a virtual democratic revolution,” Erdogan told reporters after voting in Istanbul. He said turnout appeared to be high and that “no serious incidents” had occurred.

Ince, a 54-year-old former physics teacher, is backed by the center-left opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. He has wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging campaign, drawing massive numbers at his rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir.

Also challenging Erdogan is 61-year-old former Interior Minister Meral Aksener, the only female presidential candidate in the race. She broke away from Turkey’s main nationalist party over its support for Erdogan and formed the center-right, nationalist Good Party.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including 3 million expatriates, were eligible to vote. Erdogan called the election more than a year early in what analysts say was a pre-emptive move ahead of a possible economic downturn.

Turkey was also electing 600 lawmakers to parliament — 50 more than in the previous assembly. The constitutional changes have allowed parties to form alliances, paving the way for Ince’s and Aksener’s parties to join a small Islamist party in the “Nation Alliance” against Erdogan.

The head of Turkey’s electoral commission said authorities had taken action following reports of irregularities at voting stations in southeastern Turkey. Videos posted on social media appeared to show people voting in bulk at a ballot box in the town of Suruc in Sanliurfa province.

Demirtas, the presidential candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, was forced to run his campaign from prison, where he is being held in pre-trial detention on terrorism-related charges. He denies any wrongdoing, saying his imprisonment is politically motivated so Erdogan’s government can stay in power.

The campaign coverage has been lopsided in favor of Erdogan who directly or indirectly controls a majority of Turkey’s media. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe was monitoring the elections with over 350 observers. Election monitors criticized Turkey for denying entry to two monitors who Turkey accused of being politically biased.

Peter Osusky, head of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly delegation, told The Associated Press all observers “are strongly adhering to so-called code of conduct” regardless of their political opinions. Recent changes to electoral laws allow civil servants to lead ballot box committees. 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.

Citing security reasons, authorities have relocated thousands of polling stations in predominantly Kurdish provinces, forcing some 144,000 voters to travel further to cast their ballots. Some will even have to pass through security checkpoints to vote.

The vote took place under a state of emergency declared after the failed coup attempt, which allows the government to curtail civil rights. Some 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 civil servants have been fired under the emergency powers, which opposition lawmakers say Erdogan is using to stifle dissent.

The pro-Kurdish HDP has seen nine of its lawmakers and thousands of party members arrested by the government and says more than 350 of its election workers have been detained since April 28. __ Fraser reported from Ankara. Mehmet Guzel in Ankara contributed.

Erdogan seeks to cement power in Turkey’s high-stakes votes

June 24, 2018

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkey held high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday that could consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power or curtail his vast political ambitions.

Voters flocked to polling centers to cast ballots in an election that will complete Turkey’s transition to a new executive presidential system, a move approved in a controversial referendum last year.

Erdogan, 64, is seeking re-election for a new five-year term with hugely increased powers under the new system, which he insists will bring prosperity and stability to Turkey, especially after a failed coup attempt in 2016 that has left the country under a state of emergency since then. His ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament.

Still, Erdogan — who has been in power since 2003 — is facing a more robust and united opposition this time. Opposition candidates have vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and have decried what they calls Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”

Five candidates are running against Erdogan in the presidential race. Although Erdogan is seen as the front-runner, he must secure more than 50 percent of the vote Sunday for an outright win. If that threshold is not reached, a runoff could be held on July 8 between the leading two contenders.

Erdogan’s main challenger is 54-year-old former physics teacher Muharrem Ince, who is backed by the center-left main opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP. Ince has wooed crowds with an unexpectedly engaging election campaign and his rallies in Turkey’s three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir drew massive numbers.

Also challenging Erdogan is 61-year-old former Interior Minister Meral Aksener. The only female presidential candidate, she broke away from Turkey’s main nationalist party over its support for Erdogan and formed the center-right, nationalist Good Party.

Selahattin Demirtas, the candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, was forced to run his campaign from prison, where he is being held in pre-trial detention on terrorism-related charges. Demirtas denies any wrongdoing, saying that his imprisonment is politically motivated so that Erdogan’s government can stay in power.

Turkey will also be electing 600 lawmakers to parliament on Sunday — 50 more than in the previous assembly. The constitutional changes have allowed parties to form alliances, paving the way for Ince and Aksener’s parties to join a small Islamist party in the “Nation Alliance” against Erdogan.

The pro-Kurdish HDP was left out of the alliance and needs to pass a 10 percent threshold to win seats in parliament. If it does that it could cost Erdogan’s AKP and its nationalist ally in the “People Alliance” dozens of seats — leading it to lose its parliamentary majority.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens — including 3 million expatriates — are eligible to vote in Sunday’s elections. Erdogan called the ballots more than a year earlier than scheduled in what analysts say was a pre-emptive move ahead of a possible economic downturn.

The campaign coverage has been lopsided in favor of Erdogan who directly or indirectly controls a majority of Turkey’s media. They are also being held amid fears of possible irregularities. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is monitoring the elections with as many as 350 observers.

Recent changes to electoral laws allow civil servants — people on the government payroll — to now lead ballot box committees and security forces can be called to polling stations. Citing security reasons, authorities have relocated thousands of polling stations in predominantly Kurdish provinces, affecting some 144,000 voters who will be forced to travel further to cast their ballots. Some of them will even has to pass through security checkpoints.

Ballot papers that don’t bare the official stamps will still be considered valid — a measure that led to allegations of fraud in last year’s referendum. The vote is taking place under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the failed coup attempt, which allows the government to curtail freedoms of assembly and press. Some 50,000 people have been arrested and 110,000 civil servants have been fired under the emergency powers. Opposition lawmakers say Erdogan’s government is using the state of emergency to stifle dissent.

The pro-Kurdish HDP, which has seen nine of its lawmakers and thousands of party members arrested by the government, also says more than 350 members working on the election campaign have been detained since April 28.

Turkey heads to polls on Sunday

23.06.2018

Turkey is heading to the polls on Sunday for parliamentary and presidential elections with 56,322,632 registered voters and 180,065 ballot boxes across the country.

Voting will start at 8.00 a.m. local time (0500GMT) and will continue through 5.00 p.m. local time (1400GMT).

Voters will be able to cast their ballots after they show their ID cards or any other official identification document.

It is forbidden to enter the voting booth with cameras and mobile phones.

Voters will cast two separate ballot papers in the same envelope — one for the presidential and the other for parliamentary elections.

After the voting ends, ballots cast for the presidential candidates will be counted first.

Voting at the customs gates which started on June 7, will also end at 5.00 p.m. local time (1400GMT) on Sunday.

Eight political parties are participating in the parliamentary elections that include the Justice and Development (AK) Party, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), the Free Cause (Huda-Par) Party, the newly formed Good (IYI) Party, the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), the Felicity (Saadet) Party and the Patriotic (Vatan) Party.

Six candidates are running for president: Recep Tayyip Erdogan for People’s Alliance (Cumhur Ittifaki), formed by Turkey’s ruling AK Party and the MHP, Muharrem Ince for CHP, Selahattin Demirtas for HDP, Meral Aksener for Good (IYI) Party, Temel Karamollaoglu for Felicity (Saadet) Party, and Dogu Perincek for Patriotic (Vatan) Party.

Selling alcoholic beverages are banned from 06.00 a.m. (0300GMT) to 00.00 p.m. (2100GMT) while consumption of alcoholic beverages are also prohibited in public places.

In Istanbul, 38,480 police officers, four police helicopters, eight boats, 85 anti-riot water cannon vehicles, 90 armored vehicles and three drone teams will be on duty to provide security on Election Day.

Source: Anadolu Agency.

Link: https://www.aa.com.tr/en/todays-headlines/turkey-heads-to-polls-on-sunday/1182869.

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