Polls opened in Turkey’s landmark presidential election runoff pitting incumbent Tayyip Erdogan against his challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu, in a vote that will decide if Erdogan will extend his rule into a third decade.
Erdogan, 69, defied opinion polls and came out comfortably ahead with an almost five-point lead over his rival Kemal Kilicdaroglu in the first round on May 14. But he fell just short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a runoff, in a race with profound consequences for Turkey itself and global geopolitics.
Kilicdaroglu, 74, is the candidate of a six-party opposition alliance, and leads the Republican People’s Party (CHP) created by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk. His camp has struggled to regain momentum after the shock of trailing Erdogan in the first round.
The election will decide not only who leads Turkey, a NATO-member country of 85 million, but also how it is governed, where its economy is headed after its currency plunged to one tenth of its value against the dollar in a decade, and the shape of its foreign policy, which has seen Turkey irk the West by cultivating ties with Russia and Gulf states.
Polls opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and will close at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT). By late on Sunday there should be a clear indication of the winner.