Erdogan, ruling AK Party build early lead in Turkish elections

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

Mr Ince, a former teacher and the presidential candidate of the main opposition party, the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), has proved highly effective on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds, especially in the big cities.

"I hope for the best for our nation", Ince said on June 24 as he voted in his native port town of Yalova, south of Istanbul. The streets, however, appear to be rather empty as of now.

"The presidency requires experience", said the man who has led Turkey since 2003 as prime minister and since 2014 as the country's first directly elected president.

The men agreed that their children were too young to "truly remember" the bad days before Mr Erdogan, which is why the younger generation are supporters of the Kurdish HDP.

After casting his ballot in his jail in the northwestern region of Edirne, Demirtas wrote on Twitter: "I wish that everyone uses their vote for the sake of the future and democracy of the country".

The early parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey are scheduled to be held on Sunday, June 24, that is, nearly a year and a half earlier than planned. Goran Tomasevic / Reuters 0922: What's at stake?

In the parliamentary election, the AK Party leads with 54 percent of the vote, with 8.7 percent of the ballot boxes opened. If that happens it could cost Erdogan's AKP and its nationalist ally in the "People Alliance" dozens of seats - leading it to lose its parliamentary majority.

It's the first time they'll be voting for president and parliament at the same time - a change approved a year ago by a referendum that switched Turkey's governance system to an executive presidency.

The preliminary results correlate with recent opinion polls, which predicted around 52 percent for Erdogan, and 45 percent for his AK Party (AKP).

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Voters are flocking to polling centres today 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 a year ago. Four representatives of the four parties represented in the current parliament are represented at these provincial stations, but they can only intervene in the final stage.

Turkish voters for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority, for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to extend his 15-year grip on power.

The CHP said it had recorded violations in particular in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, although Erdogan insisted there was no major problem.

"Turkey", he said, "is staging a democratic revolution".

"Even if the odds are on the incumbent's side, the race is likely to be far tighter than many expected", said Ilke Toygur, analyst at the Elcano Royal Institute and adjunct professor at University Carlos III in Madrid. The CHP had 14.82 per cent and the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) 7.07 per cent.

Election monitors criticized Turkey for denying entry to two monitors who Turkey accused of being politically biased.

She said one of the key roles for their volunteers will be to ensure election officials stamp all ballots.

The vote is taking place under a state of emergency declared after the failed coup attempt, which allows the government to curtail civil rights.

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