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The Latest: Bulk voting seen at Turkish polling station

The Latest: Bulk voting seen at Turkish polling station
The Associated Press

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — The Latest on Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday (all times local):

13:30 p.m.

The head of Turkey’s electoral commission says authorities have taken the “necessary initiatives” following reports of irregularities at voting stations in southeast Turkey.

Videos posted Sunday on social media appeared to show people voting in bulk at a ballot box in the town of Suruc, in Sanliurfa province, where four people were killed in a violent fight that erupted ahead of Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections.

Sadi Guven, the head of the High Electoral Board, said “administrative and criminal” procedures were launched.

Earlier, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the main opposition party, said “complaints” about irregularities had emerged in some eastern and southeastern regions and called on officials in charge of polling stations to remain impartial.

He urged government workers to “not forget that you are state employees. You are not the employee of a political party.”

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13:15 p.m.

European election monitors are criticizing a Turkish decision to deny entry to two members for alleged bias against Turkey.

Peter Osusky, head of the delegation from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe Parliamentary Assembly told The Associated Press on Sunday that all observers “are strongly adhering to so-called code of conduct” regardless of their political opinions.

Turkey denied entry to Andrej Hunko of Germany’s Left Party and Jabar Amin of Sweden’s small Environment Party “based on their publicly expressed political opinion.”

The OSCE’s Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights decided to deploy 22 long-term and 350 short-term observers for Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections Sunday. Opposition leaders fear recent changes to electoral procedures could lead to voting fraud.

This week the Turkish state-run news agency carried a story suggesting that the OSCE observer mission was biased against Turkey. Ignacio Sanchez Amor, leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission, called the story “a complete fabrication.”

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11:40 a.m.

Two main candidates posing a tough challenge to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary elections have cast their votes and vowed vigilance amid fears of possible fraud.

Erdogan and his ruling party are the seen as the front runners in the dual polls but for the first time in his 15-year-rule, the Turkish leader is facing a united and more energized opposition.

Rallies by Muharrem Ince of the secular opposition Republican People’s Party, or CHP, have drawn massive crowds, while Meral Aksener of the newly-formed nationalist Good Party is trying to attract conservative votes away from Erdogan’s ruling party.

Both leaders on Sunday alluded to fears of vote-rigging.

Ince voted in his home town of Yalova in northwest Turkey. Aksener told reporters in Istanbul: “I hope these elections are beneficial and truly reflect the free will of the voters.”

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10:25 a.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says authorities have arrested six people for allegedly insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan ahead of a campaign rally by his main opponent in Sunday’s elections.

The Anadolu Agency said the six were detained late Saturday days after videos posted on social media reportedly showed them shouting expletives against Erdogan. The news agency said they were later charged with “insulting state elders.”

The agency said police were searching for other suspects.

Insulting the president is a crime punishable by up to four years in prison. Erdogan has filed close to 2,000 lawsuits against people, including school children, for insulting him.

As a goodwill gesture, he dropped the cases following a failed military coup in 2016. But many more cases have been filed since then.

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9 a.m.

Turkey is holding held high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections that could consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s hold on power or curtail his vast political ambitions.

Voters flocked to polling centers Sunday 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 last year.

Erdogan, 64, is seeking re-election for a new five-year term with hugely increased powers under the new system, which he insists will bring prosperity and stability to Turkey, especially after a failed coup attempt in 2016 that has left the country under a state of emergency since then. His ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, is hoping to retain its majority in parliament.

Still, Erdogan — who has been in power since 2003 — is facing a more robust and united opposition this time, one that has vowed to return Turkey to a parliamentary democracy with strong checks and balances and decried what it calls Erdogan’s “one-man rule.”

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