Turkish voters turned up to the polls today in the country’s most hard-fought election in years.
They will decide whether to grant President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a second five-year term or vote in opposition candidate, the centre-left Muharrem İnce.
The election was called by Erdogan, a year ahead of schedule, as he looks to cement his power. The role of Turkish president was once ceremonial, but whoever wins this election will inherit new controversial powers narrowly accepted by the Turkish public in a constitutional referendum last year, which was marred by claims of electoral fraud.
Some fear similar tactics will ruin this election with Erdogan being filmed at a party meeting, urging supporters to do “special work” to defeat the opposition.
The president will now directly appoint top public officials, including ministers and vice-presidents. They will also have the power to intervene in the country’s legal system and impose a state of emergency. The role of Prime Minister will also be scrapped.
Critics have expressed concern over lack of checks and balances, with some accusing Erdogan of trying to impose one-man rule. His rival candidates have said they will not adopt these changes.
A key topic of this election is money. Turkey is currently in the middle of an economic slump with inflation rates north of 10%, and a huge fall in the value of lira, the Turkish currency, has left many voters demanding change.
Parliamentary elections will run side-by-side with the presidential poll and any dent into the majority AKP, Erdogan’s party hold in the 600-seat assembly could have a major impact.
Early polls suggest Erdogan is likely to win a second term, though thousands of voters turned out in Istanbul on Saturday in support of opposition leader Muharrem İnce. At the unprecedented rally he addressed the crowd saying: “Turkey’s hopes will be revived. This is going to be a united Turkey.”
The former physics teacher has pledged to restore the rule of law in Turkey and end the prosecution of dissidents and journalists. The country has been under has been under a state of emergency since 2016 after a failed coup led by the military. Over 107,000 public servants and soldiers dismissed from their jobs, and more than 160,000 detained according to the UN.
Whatever the result Turkey’s political landscape will be dramatically changed.