Turkey votes as Erdogan eyes second term

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

As of 3:59 pm EST, Erdogan held 53 percent of the vote while Ince had 31 percent with 96 percent of votes counted according to the state-run Anadolu news agency.

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).

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan confirmed in a phone conversation on Monday their mutual interest in boosting partnership ties between the two countries, the Kremlin press service said.

"I thank God for showing us this handsome day", Ahmet Dindarol, 35, told Al Jazeera, as he joined in the celebrations in front of the AK Party headquarters in Istanbul.

Under the system, the office of the prime minister is eliminated and executive powers are transferred to the president, who can rule with only limited checks and balances. "We will do more for the nation".

"Things will get better from now on".

All three major opposition parties accused Anadolu Agency of manipulating the results and releasing them selectively, a claim dismissed by the government.

The YSK is to announce final results on Friday.

"It [turnout] displays how advanced Turkish democracy is and how developed its democratic maturity is", Erdogan said.

Turnout exceeded a massive 87 percent. The vote will complete Turkey's transition from a parliamentary to a new executive presidential system, a move approved in a referendum previous year.

"The opposition parties ran surprisingly strong, energetic and competitive campaigns", Amanda Sloat, an Obama administration official who is a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, told the New York Times. The president will also be able to dissolve parliament, issue executive decrees, and impose a state of emergency.

In Sunday's parliamentary poll, the CHP won some 22.64 percent, far less than Ince.

The two parties are predicted to claim 293 and 49 seats in the 600-member parliament respectively, with nearly all of the ballot boxes opened, according to the Anadolu Agency. Parliament's role was severely diminished even before the constitutional changes brought in following a referendum in April 2017.

The pro-Kurdish HDP is set to secure 66 seats after receiving 11.1 percent.

Sunday's election represented Erdogan's biggest electoral challenge in more than a decade. "It gives it a lot of power".

A supporter of Muharrem Ince, pictured left, the presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, waves a Turkish flag prior to one of his rallies, in Istanbul, Turkey, June 16, 2018. Some of the presidency's new powers are similar to those enjoyed under the state of emergency.

After surviving a coup attempt in 2016, Erdogan embarked on an unprecedented purge of the civil service, judiciary and education system that sent tens of thousands to prison on charges of complicity in the putsch.

Local and global rights groups accuse the government of using the coup bid as a pretext to silence opposition in the country.

"The opposition will not be a nuisance anymore with the new presidential system", said another Erdogan supporter, retired sailor Engin Ozmen, 60.

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