Istanbul - Turkey is voting Sunday in a presidential runoff election. Incumbent President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is seeking a third term and is seen as the front-runner after narrowly missing victory in the first round.
Voting was brisk at an Istanbul ballot station in the Kadikoy neighborhood. Incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdogan and challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu said at last-minute rallies Saturday that turnout will be key to the outcome of the presidential poll. With Erdogan seeking a third decade in power, Bugra, a voter who only wanted to be identified by his first name, said democracy itself is on the ballot.
'People's rule, the republic, these are the values we have come here to defend. For 20 years, this government has only been trying to lead us to a legitimate monarchy, trying to make the parliament dysfunctional,' said Bugra.
Critics accuse Erdogan of undermining democracy, locking up critics, and centralizing power. Challenger Kilicdaroglu is pledging to return to Turkey to parliamentary democracy and releasing prominent political prisoners. But Erdogan is playing the nationalist card, accusing his challenger of being soft on terrorism, and insisting that the country needs strong leadership to stand up to Turkey's Western allies and navigate the dangerous challenges posed by a neighborhood that includes Syria and Ukraine. It is a stance that resonates with another voter, Yunus Koz.
'It is very important. I am a Muslim, I am Turkish, I love this homeland very much, and I want my homeland to remain in the hands of Tayyip Erdogan. The other side [Kilicdaroglu], wants it to be in the hands of imperialist powers,' said Koz.
With Erdogan winning the first round and parliamentary elections, he is seen as the frontrunner. But Kilicdaroglu has remained competitive with his pivot toward hardline nationalist policies, including calling for the return of millions of Syrian refugees.
Moreover, with Erdogan's voters turning out in larger numbers than Kilicdaroglu's in their respective strongholds in the first round, increasing the voter turnout of his base is now seen as Kilicdaroglu's best chance of winning.