Erdogan leads early count in pivotal Turkey poll

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Over 56 million eligible voters were for the first time casting ballots in both elections, 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.

Muharrem Ince, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party, takes a picture at the end of his address at an election rally in Corlu, Turkey, on June 20, 2018.

Voting has officially ended in Turkey's presidential and parliamentary elections with preliminary results showing the country's ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party ahead of other contestants.

If Mr Erdogan wins more than 50% of the overall vote, he will be declared the victor and avoid the need for a second round of voting.

However, the early results had been expected to give Mr. Erdogan and his Islamist-rooted party a strong lead and it was expected to shorten as more votes are tallied across the nation of 81 million people.

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"This stability must continue and that can happen with Erdogan so I voted for him", said janitor Mehmet Yildirim, 48, in Istanbul.

Ince, head of the Republican People's Party and the main opposition presidential candidate, urged monitors and citizens to protect ballot boxes on voting day against fraud.

Five candidates are running against Mr Erdogan in the presidential race. They have said election law changes and fraud allegations in the 2017 referendum raise fears about the fairness of Sunday's elections.

As of 15:50 GMT, Erdogan is leading in the polls with almost 60 percent of the vote after 20 percent of the ballot boxes were opened.

He brought forward the elections from November 2019, but he reckoned without Ince, a former physics teacher and veteran CHP lawmaker, whose feisty performance at campaign rallies has galvanized Turkey's long-demoralised and divided opposition.

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Erdogan blamed the coup on his former ally, USA -based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, and has waged a sweeping crackdown on his followers in Turkey, detaining some 160,000 people, according to the United Nations.

Turkey's voters will go to the polls Sunday for the country's second election since emergency rule was imposed after the 2016 attempted coup.

The president's critics, including the European Union which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent. Turnout was good, President Erdogan said, as is customary in Turkey. Erdogan has pledged to lift the state of emergency after the elections. All we want is a fair competition. 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.

The initial official results of the Turkish presidential and parliamentary election, held on Sunday, have emerged, signaling an expected win for the incumbent president and his party.

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