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The Latest: Voters celebrate pro-Kurdish party success

The Latest: Voters celebrate pro-Kurdish party success
The Associated Press

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

12:30 a.m.

Thousands of people are celebrating in the predominantly Kurdish southeastern city of Diyarbakir after a pro-Kurdish party passed a difficult electoral threshold to enter parliament.

Revelers waved the flags of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, and blared their car horns. One party supporter, Nejdet Erke, said he was “waiting for this emotion” since the morning.

Despite no media coverage and a crackdown, HDP passed a 10 percent threshold necessary to get seats in the legislature. According to unofficial results, it will be the third largest party in parliament with 67 seats.

Nine lawmakers, including presidential candidate Selahattin Demirtas, and thousands of party members are in prison on alleged terror charges with links to outlawed Kurdish insurgents.

A fragile peace process with Kurdish insurgents fell apart in 2015 and led to clashes across the southeast. Davut Kaymaz, a celebrant from the historic Sur district, which was destroyed during clashes, said “I have seen many cruelties here . now we are celebrating.”

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11 p.m.

The leading Turkish opposition party says it believes the results for the presidential elections are incomplete and may go to a second round, moments before President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claimed victory.

Spokesman Bulent Tezcan of the Republican People’s Party slammed Turkey’s state-run news agency for reporting that Erdogan has won enough to avoid a run-off and accused the agency of distorting the results.

He said, “there is a high probability the presidential election will go to a second round.”

State-run Anadolu news agency has Erdogan leading the race with 52.63 percent, more than the 50 percent required to avoid a second round on July 8.

Sunday’s elections will usher in an executive presidency with sweeping powers, narrowly voted in a referendum last year.

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10:45 p.m.

Turkey’s incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has claimed victory in critical elections based on unofficial results, securing an executive presidency with sweeping powers.

Speaking in televised remarks from Istanbul late Sunday, 64-year-old Erdogan said “the nation has entrusted to me the responsibility of the presidency and the executive duty.”

He also declared victory for the People’s Alliance, an electoral cooperation between his ruling Justice and Development Party and the small Nationalist Movement Party, saying they had a “parliamentary majority” in the 600-member assembly.

Sunday’s elections are putting into force a stronger presidential system, allowing the president to form the government, appoint ministers, vice presidents and top bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and impose states of emergency.

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10:00 p.m.

A presidential candidate in Turkey has contested election reports from the country’s state-run news agency and accused it of “manipulation.”

Muharrem Ince tweeted that only 37 percent of ballot boxes had actually been counted when Anadolu Agency reported Sunday that more than 85 percent were tallied.

Ince was the lead rival to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the election. He called on election observers and party members “not to abandon the ballot boxes.”

Erdogan’s ruling party slammed Ince’s comments. Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag alleged that Ince was “threatening and targeting” the news agency.

The election will usher in an executive presidency with sweeping powers.

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9:15 p.m.

Partial results show a pro-Kurdish party has passed a critical electoral threshold to enter the Turkish parliament, risking the ruling party’s majority.

State-run Anadolu news agency shows the Peoples’ Democratic Party, or HDP, with 10.4 percent with more than 80 percent of the votes counted. That will give the HDP some 65 seats in the 600-member parliament.

The opposition “Nation Alliance,” which consists of secular, nationalist and an Islamic-leaning party, hovered around 33 percent. The “People Alliance” of Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development party, or AKP, and a nationalist party led at 55 percent. However, AKP alone stood below the mark needed for a majority, with 297 seats.

Turkey’s system of governance will transform into an executive presidency with sweeping powers after Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections. Whoever controls parliament will be key to providing checks and balances on what critics warn could be a “one-man regime.”

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7:45 p.m.

Unofficial results from Turkey’s presidential election show incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan with a commanding lead.

With more than half of ballot boxes counted Sunday, in the lead, Erdogan had 56.5 percent of the vote, which would be enough for him to win outright and avoid a runoff election.

Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency said challenger Muharrem Ince was in second place, with nearly 29 percent of the vote. Jailed candidate Selahattin Demirtas hovered at around 6 percent.

In the parliamentary election, a “People Alliance” consisting of Erdogan’s ruling party and a nationalist party led at around 59 percent with about 36 percent of ballot boxes counted.

The pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party is nearing the 10 percent electoral threshold to enter parliament, with 9 percent of the vote.

Sunday’s high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections could consolidate Erdogan’s grip on power or curtail his vast political ambitions.

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7 p.m.

The French Communist Party says that a delegation from its party which was in Turkey to observe the elections has been released after being detained by Turkish authorities.

PCF National Secretary Pierre Laurent said on BFM Television that the three-person delegation, which included Cotes-d’Armor Senator Christine Prunaud, was freed in Agri Sunday afternoon after French authorities intervened.

In a statement of condemnation following the Sunday morning arrests, the PCF accused the Turkish government of wanting “to stifle all voices denouncing the massive fraud at work.”

It said that Turkish authorities went to Twitter to accuse their delegation of being “false observers.”

The delegation was in Turkey to observe Sunday’s presidential and parliamentary elections.

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6:50 p.m.

Early partial results in Turkey’s presidential elections show incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the lead, with challenger Muharrem Ince in second place.

Turkey’s official Anadolu News Agency said that with 22 percent of the country’s ballot boxes counted, Erdogan was at 59.1 percent of the vote, with Ince at 26.5 percent.

Sunday’s high-stakes presidential and parliamentary elections could consolidate President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s grip on power or curtail his vast political ambitions. The vote will complete Turkey’s transition to a new executive presidential system, a move approved in a controversial referendum last year.

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6:15 p.m.

The counting of votes has begun across Turkey in the high-stakes dual election for the presidency and parliament.

Ballot box committees started opening envelopes holding ballots after polls closed at 1400 GMT. Officials were raising the ballots and calling out the votes for the committee and other observers in the room to keep count. They assessed valid and invalid votes, depending on how the ballots were stamped.

Partial results were expected to start being announced four hours after polls closed, at 1800 GMT.

Six candidates, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, are competing for the presidency. The results will transform Turkey’s parliamentary governance system to an executive presidency.

Eight parties are bidding for 600 parliamentary seats. Five of them are also part of two competing electoral alliances. The alliances —new in these elections— allow smaller parties to bypass a 10 percent threshold required for individual parties to enter parliament. Alliance votes will be distributed to the parties according to the ratio of votes they received individually.

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5:35 p.m.

A contender for Turkey’s presidency has called on citizens “to not abandon the ballot boxes” as polls closed in critical dual presidential and parliamentary elections.

Muharrem Ince, nominated for president by the leading opposition Republican People’s Party, said ballot box observers should not leave their stations without signed results and asked people to go to their district electoral committees to monitor.

Ince is incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s lead opponent and has been warning of voting irregularities and pressure on civil servants. He advised Supreme Election Council members to do their jobs “abiding by law” and without fear.

Ince also accused Turkey’s official Anadolu news agency of siding with Erdogan by presenting manipulative results, citing past elections.

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5 p.m.

The polls have closed in Turkey’s landmark presidential and parliamentary elections in which President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking re-election to a presidency with vastly expanded powers.

Voting ended at 1400 GMT on Sunday. The elections complete Turkey’s switch from a parliamentary democracy to an executive presidency, which was approved in a contested referendum last year.

Erdogan — who has been at Turkey’s helm for the past 15 years — is seen as the front-runner. However, he is facing a tough challenge by a robust opposition that has joined forces in a bid to unseat him.

Voters are also choosing among eight parties, including two alliances, for 600 parliamentary seats.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including some 3 million living abroad, were eligible to vote. There are no exit polls.

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4:20 p.m.

Turkey’s official news agency says authorities have launched investigations into 10 foreign nationals in the country’s predominantly Kurdish regions.

Anadolu Agency, sourcing interior ministry officials, said the foreigners attempted to “interfere” in the elections by posing as accredited observers. They include three French citizens in eastern Agri province and three Germans and four Italians in the southeastern provinces of Sirnak, Batman and Diyarbakir.

The Agri governor’s office said the French nationals were speaking to voters regarding the elections but were not on the official Organization for Security and Co-operation of Europe accredited monitor list. They were brought to law enforcement to be “interviewed.”

It was unclear what the investigation entails.

Citing security, authorities moved and merged thousands of ballot boxes in Kurdish areas, affecting some 144,000 voters and forcing many to cross military checkpoints to reach polling stations.

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4:10 p.m.

Turkey’s state-run news agency says two people were hurt in a clash that erupted between two rival groups at a polling station in a town in the southeast.

Anadolu Agency says the fighting occurred Sunday in Suruc in Sanliurfa province, where authorities were investigating reports of ballot box-stuffing at another polling station.

There was no further detail on what caused the fight.

Sanliurfa governor Abdullah Erin said on Twitter: “The necessary interventions were made concerning the short-lived fighting between the sides.”

Tensions in Suruc have been high in recent weeks after four people were killed in fighting that erupted during campaigning by a ruling party parliamentary candidate.

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2:15 p.m.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cast his vote in the country’s presidential and parliamentary elections, saying that Turkey was experiencing a “democratic revolution.”

Sunday’s elections will complete Turkey’s transition to a new executive presidential system. Whoever wins the presidential race will rule over the country with expanded powers.

After voting in Istanbul, Erdogan said: “With the presidential system, Turkey has set the bar high concerning efforts to reach beyond the level of contemporary civilization.”

The president said participation in the elections appeared to be high, saying that 50 percent of voters had already cast their ballots. There was no official word on turnout from election officials.

Dozens of supporters gathered outside the polling station chanting his name.

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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 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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