Turkey's Erdogan faces poll test against resurgent opposition

Erdogan seeks to cement power in Turkey's high-stakes votes

Erdogan leads in Turkey’s presidential election – preliminary results

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

But both these goals are in doubt in the face of an energetic campaign by his rival from the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), Muharrem Ince, who has mobilized hundreds of thousands in mega rallies, and a strong opposition alliance in the legislative polls.

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 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.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has won 12 electoral contests in the last 16 years.

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Experts said the lira depreciation, higher unemployment rate and inflation rate, all those symptoms of a sluggish economy had become a heavy burden on Mr Erdogan.

Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, US-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on the preacher's followers in Turkey. His rallies in Turkey's three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and İzmir drew massive numbers.

But he reckoned without Muharrem Ince, the presidential candidate of the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanised Turkey's long-demoralised and divided opposition. Confident and combative, Ince said "Erdogan you are going!" and called him a "fascist".

On Saturday police said at least one million people had turned out in Istanbul's Maltepe district to hear Ince promise to reverse - if he wins the presidency - what he sees as Turkey's turn towards more authoritarian rule under Erdogan. If the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) wins seats by polling over the 10 percent minimum threshold, the AKP will struggle to keep its overall majority. "Backing the HDP means supporting democracy", Demirtas said in a video clip from prison, where he is being held on terror-related charges. State-run TRT Haber news channel did now show Ince's speech live at all while only parts were broadcast on privately-owned CNN-Turk.

Eight political parties are competing in the Turkish parliamentary elections.

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