Turkish residents go to polls for parliamentary, presidential elections

June 24 (UPI) — Turkish residents are going to the polls Sunday for the first time to simultaneously elect members of the parliament and president.

More than 56 million people are eligible to vote in the election.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking re-election and overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party. His party is running in an alliance with the far-right Nationalist Movement Party to create the People’s Alliance.

Last year, Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to convert the country’s parliamentary system to a powerful executive presidency. The role of prime minister will be dissolved and the president gains the authority to issue laws by decree.

He is opposed by Muharrem Ince, a former high school physics teacher, of the secular Republican People’s Party. On Wednesday, he drew hundreds of thousands of supporters in Izmir on the Aegean coast.

If no one gains a 50 percent majority, Turkey will hold a run-off election on July 8.

Ince is 10 years younger than Erdogan, 64, who became president in 2014 but previously served as prime minister from 2003 to 2014

Erdogan cast his vote at a school in Istanbul’s Uskudar with his wife, Emine.

He praised the high voter turnout, which he said had crossed 50 percent.

“It [turnout] displays how advanced Turkish democracy is and how developed its democratic maturity is,” Erdogan said. “Turkey is experiencing a democratic revolution with this election,” he added.

In the past, Turkey have seen between 80 percent and 85 percent of eligible voters cast their ballots.

Election board chief Sadi Guven said officials were taking “administrative and judicial initiatives” over reported security problems as people voted in Sanliurfa, in the country’s southeast, according to Turkey’s state-run Anadolu news agency.