Erdogan leads after early results in Turkey

Recep Tayyip Erdogan would become the country’s first executive president with sweeping new powers

Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan declared victory after unofficial election returns Sunday showed him with enough votes to serve another term that carries new executive powers.

The political opposition is disputing the official results, saying more votes have to be counted, and has accused the country's election commission of manipulating results.

Initial results were expected later in the day.

Turks were choosing both a president and new parliament Sunday in one the most fiercely fought election in years.

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

Turkey is gearing up for early presidential and parliamentary elections.

From a modest background himself, Erdogan has presided over an infrastructure boom that has modernized Turkey and lifted many out of poverty while also raising Islam's profile, for instance by lifting a ban on Islamic headscarves in schools and public offices.

However, Erdogan and his ruling party could befacing tougher competition than initially expected. Pre-election surveys had suggested that their alliance could seize a majority in parliament and force Erdoğan into a second round for the presidential vote on July 8.

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.

The CHP leader is backed by the newly formed National Alliance, which along with secular social democrats, includes center-right conservatives, nationalist liberal conservatives, and conservative Islamists.

Mr Ince jumped over the required 10 percent of votes to gain seats in parliament.

But the opposition has lambasted the uneven nature of the poll, which saw state-controlled television ignore Ince's giant rally in Istanbul on the eve of the election.

Critics, including the European Union, which Turkey still nominally aspires to join, say Erdogan has used the crackdown to stifle dissent.

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But he faces a major challenge from centre-left candidate Muharrem Ince of the Republican People's Party (CHP).

YSK chairman Sadi Guven told Anadolu it was taking steps in response to reports of irregularities in Sanliurfa's Suruc town, near the Syrian border.

"Whatever they do, they are going to lose", Ince tweeted.

The polls - for which more than 55 million Turkish voters are registered - will also finalize Turkey's transition to an executive presidency, which was narrowly approved in a contentious election past year.

His rallies in Turkey's three main cities of Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir drew massive numbers.

Analysts say the opposition's performance is all the more troubling for the authorities given how the campaign has been slanted in favour of Erdogan, who has dominated media airtime.

Another person who could siphon of votes from Erdogan is the only female candidate, Meral Aksener of the lyi, the Good Party.

"Beware: do not be overcome by languor".

"We have taken all security precautions", said Erdogan.

Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared himself the victor of a high-stakes Turkish election, as he looks to consolidate his power on a nation he has ruled for 15 years. He remains popular with vast segments of the population.

The HDP's presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, waged his election campaign from a prison near the Greek border as he awaits trial on terrorism-related charges, which he denies.

More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including some 3 million living overseas, were eligible to vote.

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