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Turkey’s tough presidential election threatens Erdogan’s reign

Turkey’s tough presidential election threatens Erdogan’s reign

Polls have begun on Sunday in Turkey’s fiercely fought presidential and parliamentary elections.

The presidential election could bring an end to Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s 20-year rule, being the toughest challenge he has ever encountered so far.

There were criticisms that the impact of the devastating February 6 earthquake was made worse by his lax building controls and an ineffective rescue effort.

His main opponent is CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, who represents an election coalition of six opposition parties. For the first time, Turkey’s factious oppositions have joined forces to support one candidate.

A candidate must win over 50% of the vote on Sunday night in order to be elected. If not, Turkey will head to a run-off on May 28.

Kılıçdaroğlu, 74, has promised to fix Turkey’s faltering economy and restore democratic institutions compromised by a slide to authoritarianism during Erdogan’s tenure.

Candidates vote

After casting his vote in Istanbul, Erdogan told reporters: “We pray to God for a better future for our country, our nation, and Turkish democracy. It is very important for all of our voters to cast their votes until 17.00 in the evening without any worries for demonstrating the strength of Turkish democracy.”

After voting in Ankara, Kılıcdaroglu said: “We all missed democracy, being together and embracing so much. Hopefully, from now on you will see spring will come to this country and it will always continue.”

Erdogan concluded his election campaign on Saturday night by praying at Hagia Sophia – a mosque and major historic site in Istanbul. In contrast, Kilicdaroglu visited the tomb of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey and staunch secularist.

Erdogan has been extolling the virtues of his long rule, campaigning on a platform of stability, independent foreign policy and continuing to bolster Turkey’s defense industry. Recently, he raised the wages of government workers by 45% and lowered the retirement age.

Over the last two years, Turkey’s currency has plummeted and prices have ballooned, prompting a cost of living crisis that has chipped away at Erdogan’s conservative, working class support base.

Then, the impact of  the February 6 earthquake sparked criticisms, as his critics chastized him for a botched rescue effort and lax building controls that his ruling Justice and Development (AK) party presided over for two decades.

In the weeks after the quake, the government rounded up dozens of contractors, construction inspectors and project managers for violating building rules. Critics dismissed the move as scapegoating.

 

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