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HomeWorldPolls open in Turkey's pivotal presidential and parliamentary elections | World News

Polls open in Turkey’s pivotal presidential and parliamentary elections | World News

The polls for Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections have opened after rallies on the last day of campaigning.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is facing his toughest challenge ever against Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the Republican People’s Party.

Mr Erdogan, 69, is seeking a third consecutive term as president having easily won five elections. He had held the position of prime minister for two decades until he abolished the role.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a third consecutive term. Pic: AP

But Mr Kilicdaroglu, 74, seeks to unseat the president and return Turkey to a “strong parliamentary system” by scrapping the presidential system that the Turkish leader introduced by referendum in 2017.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party
Mr Kilicdaroglu wants to scrap the presidential system. Pic: AP

The election remains a three-horse race, with 55-year-old nationalist politician Sinan Ogan also in the running. It follows candidate Muharrem Ince pulling out of the race on Thursday.

ATA Alliance presidential candidate Sinan Ogan
Sinan Ogan’s candidacy is backed by small right-wing parties. Pic: AP

Mr Ogan’s candidacy is backed by small right-wing parties, including the anti-migration Victory Party which seeks the repatriation of Syrian refugees.

The elections are taking place amid a crippling economic downturn and high inflation, with the ripples of the catastrophic earthquake back in February still being felt.

If no presidential candidate secures more than 50% of the vote, a runoff election will be held on 28 May.

A woman gestures in front of a banner with an image of Turkish President and People's Alliance's presidential candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan, in Istanbul
Voters in Istanbul

The country will also be electing parliamentarians to its 600-seat assembly on Sunday.

On the eve of the elections, Mr Erdogan spoke at three neighbourhood rallies in the Istanbul, Turkey’s biggest city. He said that he viewed the elections as a “celebration of democracy”, dismissing speculation that he wouldn’t cede power if he lost.

Meanwhile, Mr Kilicdaroglu visited the mausoleum of the founder of the Republican People’s Party, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. He had previously asked the thousands that had gathered to hear him deliver his final speech to “change Turkey’s destiny” on Sunday.

Any votes cast for Mr Ince will be counted as valid, with his withdrawal not being considered until a potential second round of voting, according to Turkey’s Supreme Electoral Board.

This story originally appeared on Skynews

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