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The Turks voted this Sunday in crucial elections that could prolong the two-decade rule of the president Recep Tayyip Erdogan or lead the majority Muslim country towards secularization.

Wearing a blue shirt and a weary expression, prominent president and candidate Recep Tayyip Erdogan went to his polling station in Üsküdar, a conservative neighborhood of istanbulto vote, where he wished «a prosperous future for the country and for Turkish democracy».

Erdogan, who did not want to give any forecast, said the «enthusiasm of the voters» particularly in the areas most affected by the earthquake on February 6, which left at least 50,000 dead.

The opposition candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu, voted shortly before in Ankara. «We have missed democracy,» she declared with a smile.

«You’ll see, spring will return to this country God willing and it will last forever,» he added, referring to one of his slogans.

In a deeply divided Türkiyethe duel to choose the thirteenth president of the country, a century after the founding of its republic, promises to be even.

A large turnout is projected

The polling stations have already closed after nine hours of voting to elect the 600 members of Parliament and the new president.

Election day passed without incident. The central electoral board reported that a member of a table has passed and the opposition has denounced some irregularities and alleged vote manipulation.

Different sources and media report that participation will be higher than usual, in a country where it usually exceeds 80%. Canan Kaftancioglu, the president of the social democratic party CHP, the main opposition party, has assured, for example, that in Istanbul participation could reach 90%.

Turkish opponent Kemal Kiliçdaroglu.


EFE/ Aysegül Uçar

Presidential elections in Türkiye: is the country polarized?

The country is polarized between the two main candidates, the Islamoconservative President Erdogan69, in power for twenty, and his opponent Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, 74, head of a secular social democratic party, the CHP.

To ensure victory in the first round, he needs at least 50% of the votes plus one.

The third candidate in dispute is Sinan Ogan, to whom the polls attribute just a few points.

«The important thing is not to divide Turkey,» said Recep Turktan, a 67-year-old voter waiting in front of his polling station in Üsküdar.

64 million voters, who will also elect their parliament, are registered in this country of 85 million inhabitants, which has a tradition of voting with participation rates above 80%.

Good humor and a festive atmosphere abounded among the voters on this day, which coincided with Mother’s Day in Turkey.

«The economy is not the priority, we must start at the bottom: restore human rights and democracy, recover our dignity,» said Hande Tekay, 55, in Istanbul’s posh Sisli neighborhood.

«I say that we must continue with Erdogan,» Nurcan Soyer asks on the contrary in front of the electoral college of the prominent president.

The President of Türkiye.

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Kiliçdaroglu, the leader of the Republican People’s Party (CHP) of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, the founder of modern Turkey, leads a six-party coalition that spans from the nationalist right to the liberal center-left.

He also received the support of the pro-Kurdish HDP party, the third largest political force in the country.

In 2018, in the last presidential elections, the head of state won in the first round with more than 52.5% of the votes. If this time he had to play a second round, on May 28, it would already be a setback for him.

Erdogan vowed to respect the result at the polls, which will be monitored by hundreds of thousands of election observers from both sides, on whom he has always relied for his legitimacy.

On this occasion, the president comes to the vote in a country hit by an economic crisis, with a currency devalued by half in two years and inflation that exceeded 85% in autumn, in addition to the dramatic earthquake in February, which put in question his omnipotence.

His rival, Kemal Kiliçdaroglu, is committed to appeasement and promises to restore the rule of law and respect the institutions, affected in the last ten years by Erdogan’s autocratic drift.

According to polls, his short, calm speeches, in contrast to Erdogan’s, won over the majority of the 5.2 million young Turks who voted for the first time.

For the political scientist Ahmet Insel, exiled in Paris, «Erdogan’s defeat would show that we can get out of a consolidated autocracy through the ballot box.»

Turkey, a NATO member country, enjoys a privileged position between Europe and the Middle East and is an important diplomatic actor.

Voting centers will close at 5:00 p.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT) and the first official estimates are expected to be known about four hours later.