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Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is up against main rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu as Turkey votes. The outcome could significantly alter Turkey's domestic and foreign policies. DW has the latest..

  • Turkey votes in presidential and parliamentary elections
  • CHP's Kemal Kilicdaroglu has slight lead over Erdogan in opinion surveys
  • All three remaining presidential contenders have now voted
  • Polls close at 5 p.m. local time (1400 UTC)
  • Runoff elections could be held May 28 if no majority winner in first round

This article was last updated at 1229 UTC

What some of the voters are saying

The campaign ahead of Sunday's pivotal elections has been characteristically divisive. As voters cast their ballots, the split was apparent in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul, of which Erdogan was mayor from 1994 to 1998.

"I see these elections as a choice between democracy and dictatorship. I chose democracy and I hope that my country chooses democracy. I have hope that Kilicdaroglu will win," 64-year-old retired health sector worker Ahmet Kalkan told the Reuters news agency.

However, long-time Erdogan supporter Mehmet Akif Kahraman said he was still backing the incumbent. "There has never been a change in my thoughts because the future is here. God willing, Turkey will be a world leader," said Kahraman.

Mehmet Ali Fakioglu, who was made homeless by the earthquake that hit Turkey in February, made a 15-hour journey back to the disaster-hit Antakya region to vote on Sunday.

Fakioglu, who has been staying with his son in Istanbul, relayed his anger about the fact that help from the government was slow to arrive.

"I will only say this, everybody should vote with their conscience at the ballot box," Fakioglu told Reuters. "We were forgotten, all of us, on that day, the second day even on the third day. Not only in Antakya, but people were forgotten in all those cities."

"People all around Turkey should keep this in mind when voting," he added.

Mehmet Ali Fakioglu

In the capital, Ankara, Ceren was one of more than five million young voters eligible to cast ballots. She said she wanted to see change. "I was born during this government. I saw to what point we arrived. I don't want them anymore — enough," the 19-year-old told the AFP news agency.

However, many older voters remain loyal to the president, including 67-year-old Ankara resident Recep Turktan. 

"What matters is not to divide Turkey," said Turktan, adding that the economic difficulties facing Turkey at present were beig felt around the world. "We will carry out our duty. I say, go on [with Erdogan]," Turktan said.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan greets a person at a polling station

President Erdogan casts vote in Istanbul, expresses hopes

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has cast his ballot at a primary school in Istanbul's Üsküdar district.

After voting, he expressed hope that the outcome would be "good for the future of the country," although he did not predict a win.

"My hope to God is that after the counting concludes this evening, the outcome is good for the future of our country, for Turkish democracy," he said. Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power more than 20 years ago, and he hopes to extend his tenure as modern Turkey's longest-serving ruler.

He won in the first round of the presidential election in 2018 with 52.6% of the vote. Polls currently show support hovering around 44-45%.

Opposition's Kilicdaroglu casts ballot, vows democracy's return

Turkish presidential candidate Kemal Kilicdaroglu has cast his vote at a primary school in the capital, Ankara. 

After voting, he pledged to restore democracy to Turkey after what many see as a slide toward authoritarianism. "We all missed democracy," the secular leader told reporters. "You will see, God willing, spring will come to this country."

The opposition contender is the chairman of the Republican People's Party (CHP), which was established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk — the founder of modern Turkey.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition alliance, casts his ballot at a polling station in Ankara

Kilicdaroglu says he and his six-party alliance plan to "fulfill people's longing for democracy" and would "turn towards the West" in foreign policy matters if successful at the polls. 

Outsider Sinan Ogan casts his vote

Ranked as an outsider in the presidential election, candidate Sinan Ogan has voted at an Ankara polling station.

Ogan was a former lawmaker with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), an ally of Erdogan's AK Party, and has an academic and international finance development background. However, polling has shown him to be lagging far behind the two lead candidates.

The third contender, Sinan Ogan, casts his vote

Another contender, Muharrem Ince announced on Thursday that he was withdrawing from the presidential race. However, his name is still on the ballot paper, meaning people could still vote for him.

Voting begins in pivotal elections

Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (0500 UTC) across Turkey for crucial parliamentary and presidential elections. 

Roughly 61 million people are eligible to vote, including nearly 5 million first-time voters. Turks abroad have already cast their ballots.

The vote is being seen as a major test to incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's 20-year rule.

Besides choosing the president, voters will also select 600 members of parliament from 87 electoral districts to represent them for the next five years.

The Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) has deployed hundreds of observers to monitor the vote.

Polling stations are scheduled to close at 5 p.m. local time.

Most Germans would like to see Erdogan voted out

A survey shows that two-thirds of people in Germany would be happy to see Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan voted out of office after two decades in power.

The nationwide study by the research institute YouGov asked: "This coming Sunday, Turkey will hold its presidential election. Would you prefer President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to be re-elected or voted out?"

About 70% of respondents thought Erdogan should go, while 10% thought he should stay. Another 20% said they did not know or gave no answer.

Germany has some 1.5 million registered Turkish voters, the largest diaspora participating in the vote.  They have been voting since April 27, with polling stations having closed on Tuesday evening. While supporters of Erdogan and his AKP party have often stirred controversy in Germany, the Turkish leader does have a strong support base in the country.

Last chance for democracy, says Bundestag's foreign affairs chair

The German Bundestag's foreign affairs committee chairman, Michael Roth, said the elections were "probably the last chance" for the opposition to democratically remove Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) from power after two decades.

While the presidential and parliamentary elections would likely be free, Roth told the German media group RND, they would probably not be fair, with Erdogan and his supporter tightening their grip on the media, the electoral commission and the judiciary.
Meanwhile, Roth said, Russia appeared to be trying to discredit the Turkish opposition through disinformation campaigns.

He added that Erdogan appeared to have little more to offer than nationalist slogans. "The economic, social, and financial situation of the country is simply devastating," Roth said.


How the 'earthquake zone' views Turkey's elections

On February 6, powerful earthquakes rocked large portions of southern Turkey and northern Syria. More than 50,000 people lost their lives in Turkey alone, according to official figures.

About three months after the disaster, many people still don't have a place to stay, while basic services like water and electricity have not yet been restored everywhere. 

DW reported on two cities in the "earthquake zone" which have starkly different views on Sunday's election.

The southeastern Turkish city of Kahramanmaras, which was at the epicenter of February's earthquake, is considered an AKP stronghold. It is unlikely the incumbent will see support wane on May 14 because of the earthquake.

The situation appears to be different in Hatay, a city near the Syrian border. There, many people were critical of the government, saying some cities — not including Hatay — were given priority when it came to aid deliveries. 

Many in Hatay still lack clean water, clothing and hygiene articles.

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