Istanbul, May 28 (EFE).- Turks headed to the polls on Sunday to cast their votes in a crucial presidential election runoff that will decide Turkey’s next five-year-term president.
Nearly 61 million eligible voters were called to choose between incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been ruling the country for two decades, and Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP).
Erdogan and Kilicdaroglu urged citizens to vote after they cast their ballots in the Eurasian country’s first-ever runoff elections.
The Islamist conservative Erdogan praised the high turnout in the first round on May 14 and called on voters to keep the turnout high this time around.
“There are no elections with 90% participation anywhere in the world. I ask my citizens to maintain the same turnout until the end,” the 69-year-old said.
“Results will be known quickly since there are two candidates,” added Erdogan, whom the opposition accused of being an authoritarian ruler.
Kilicdaroglu, meanwhile, invited all Turks to go to the polls to “abolish oppression and authoritarian leadership.”
“There will be a time when you will walk the streets freely and criticize the leadership freely. I thank all the citizens who have voted,” he continued.
Volunteer observers have been closely monitoring the polls as fears of election rigging by Erdogan supporters are surfacing.
There are suspicions that Erdogan’s Islamist Party AKP will try to send supporters to vote in different polling stations in several districts, especially in rural areas with few observers, through special permits issued to security forces to enable them to vote where they are.
But the voting and counting system appears to be difficult to manipulate, according to observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).
“It is impossible to predict the winner now,” young businessman Bilal told Efe. We will know when the count is over at night.”
More than 192,000 polling stations across Turkey will be open between 8.00 am and 5.00 pm (0500-1400 GMT).
In the first round of the elections, Erdogan emerged as the favorite having secured 49.5 percent of popular support as compared to 44.9 percent by Kilicdaroglu.
Election-related news will not be broadcast until 6 pm, and the press is prohibited from reporting on the results until 9 pm, although the election commission may lift this restriction earlier. EFE