TEHRAN (Press Shia Agency) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan was on Sunday leading a tightly-contested presidential election in a partial count as he seeks a new mandate in the face of a revitalized opposition and weakening economy.
Turkish voters had for the first time cast ballots for both president and parliament in the snap polls, with Erdogan looking for a first round knockout and an overall majority for his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to extend his 15-year grip on power.
In the presidential poll, Erdogan has just under 56 percent against his nearest rival Muharrem Ince of the secular Republican People's Party (CHP) with almost 29 percent, state-run Anadolu news agency said, based on a 60 percent vote count.
Erdogan needs over 50 percent to retain the presidency in the first round. But these are still partial results and the outcome could yet change drastically.
Trailing were Meral Aksener of the nationalist (Iyi) Good Party with over seven percent and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) with under six percent, AFP reported.
A count of almost 50 percent for the parliamentary election also showed that Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) — along with its Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) allies — were well ahead and set for an overall majority. But again this can change sharply.
The pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) was hovering just under the 10 percent minimum threshold needed to win seats, a factor likely to have a major impact on the composition of the new parliament.
Erdoogan had faced an energetic campaign by Ince, who has rivalled the incumbent's charisma and crowd-pulling on the campaign trail, as well as a strong opposition alliance in the legislative poll.
Ince vowed to spend the night at the headquarters of Turkey's election authority in Ankara to ensure a fair count and urged supporters to stay in polling stations until the final vote was counted.
The CHP said it had recorded violations in particular in the southeastern province of Sanliurfa, although Erdogan insisted, after voting himself, there was no major problem.
"I will protect your rights. All we want is a fair competition. Have no fear and don't believe in demoralising reports," Ince said after polls closed.
Erdogan has overseen historic change in Turkey since his Islamic-rooted ruling party first came to power in 2002 after years of secular domination. But critics accuse the Turkish strongman, 64, of trampling on civil liberties and autocratic behaviour.