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