Turks set to vote in crucial presidential and parliamentary polls

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks new term with greater powers

Turkey President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks new term with greater powers

Supporters of Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan attend an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018.

The early parliamentary and presidential elections in Turkey are scheduled to be held on Sunday, June 24, that is, nearly a year and a half earlier than planned.

His main challenger, Muharram Ince of the secularist Republican People's Party, has been a hit on the campaign trail, drawing huge crowds.

The elections will also usher in a powerful new executive presidency long sought by Erdogan and backed by a small majority of Turks in a 2017 referendum.

The AKP has formed an alliance with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) before the elections, which will herald a switch to a new powerful executive presidency narrowly approved in a referendum a year ago.

He called snap elections, brought forward from late 2019, and is hoping to cement his position with beefed-up powers.

He painted a bleak picture of Turkey if Erdogan wins the elections, saying its currency would remain weak, prices high and the issue of 3.5 million Syrian refugees unsolved.

Mr Erdogan is on the cusp of assuming a more powerful presidential role but may lose important political legitimacy in the process, and Turkey - a member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation western military alliance with a major role in the Middle East - is about to enter an uncertain new era.

Ince also repeated his accusation - made by other opposition politicians too - of political bias by Turkey's state media, which has given Erdogan and the AK Party heavy coverage while often neglecting to broadcast opposition rallies.

There are six candidates for the presidency.

If Mr Erdogan's AKP group keeps its majority in the 600-seat assembly, he will head into a run-off vote in a strong position.

And Sunday's parliamentary election, running side-by-side with the presidential poll, could have a major impact on round two.

Despite an ongoing Kurdish insurgency, he has even reached out to Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of the main Kurdish party, who is campaigning from prison where he faces so far unproven charges. And what would that mean for Turkey's future?

If Mr Erdogan wins the presidency and his party keeps its majority, he will have successfully consolidated his political power.

Turkish voters living overseas - about three million of the 59 million voters in total - have already cast their votes.

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