International

Turkey: Presidential And Parliamentary Elections Set To Start Today

These elections could be the biggest challenge to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his two decades in power.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
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Voters in Turkey are heading to the polls on Sunday for crucial parliamentary and presidential elections that are expected to be tightly contested. 

These elections could be the biggest challenge to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in his two decades in power.

The vote will either grant the increasingly authoritarian Erdogan a new five-year term in office or set the NATO-member country on what his principal opponent calls a more democratic path.

For the first time in his 20 years in office, opinion polls indicate that the populist Erdogan, 69, is entering a race trailing behind an opponent. Opinion surveys have given a slight lead to Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old leader of the centre-left, pro-secular Republican People's Party, or CHP, and the joint candidate of a united opposition alliance. If no candidate receives more than 50 per cent of the votes, the presidential race will go to a run-off on May 28.

More than 64 million people, including 3.4 million overseas voters, are eligible to vote in the elections, which are taking place the year Turkey marks the centenary of the establishment of its republic.

Voter turnout in Turkey is traditionally strong, showing continued belief in this type of civic participation in a country where freedom of expression and assembly have been suppressed.

The elections come as the country is wracked by economic turmoil that critics blame on the government's mishandling of the economy and a steep cost-of-living crisis.

The country is also reeling from the effects of a powerful earthquake that caused devastation in 11 southern provinces, killing more than 50,000 in unsafe buildings.

Erdogan's government has been criticised for its delayed and stunted response to the disaster as well as the lax implementation of building codes that exacerbated the misery.

Internationally, the elections are being watched closely as a test of a united opposition's ability to dislodge a leader who has concentrated nearly all powers of the state in his hands. 

(With AP inputs)

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