Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan sought to build on his momentum going into Sunday’s runoff presidential election, urging Turks to vote as his rival called on electors to pull their country from “the dark pit” of his two-decade rule.
The opposition has seen this month's presidential and parliamentary elections as their best chance yet of unseating Erdogan, and unpicking far-reaching changes he has made to Turkey, with his popularity hit by a cost-of living crisis.
The two candidates are aiming to attract some 8 million voters who did not go to the polls in the first round.
A first round of voting on May 14th showed Erdogan with a lead over the opposition’s Kemal Kilicdaroglu, and Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party and its allies secured a parliamentary majority in the initial vote.
Addressing flag-waving supporters in Istanbul's Beykoz district during his final campaign rally, Erdogan urged a strong turnout.
"Are we running to the polls tomorrow? Will we cast our votes from the early hours in the morning? We will not miss anyone that voted in the first round," he said, as the crowd chanted "yes" in excitement.
“We will encourage people who could not go [to the ballot box in the first round]. Will we complete the work that we left unfinished on May 14th, with an overwhelming majority, hopefully by making the gap even wider tomorrow?”
Kilicdaroglu, who is backed by a six-party opposition alliance, said everyone who loves Turkey must vote.
"If you really want it, we'll all get out of this dark pit together," he wrote in a Tweet. "I am calling to all our people regardless of their view or lifestyle. This is the last exit. Everyone who loves their country should go to the ballot box!"
Erdogan won 49.5% of the vote in the first round versus 44.9% for Kilicdaroglu.
Erdogan got a boost earlier this week when Sinan Ogan – a nationalist politician who came third with 5.2% – endorsed him.
Kilicdaroglu, who is chair of Turkey's biggest opposition party, the CHP, meanwhile secured the endorsement of the anti-immigrant Victory Party for the runoff.
Victory for Erdogan would entrench the rule of a leader who has transformed Turkey, reshaping the secular state founded 100 years ago to fit his pious vision while consolidating power in his hands in what critics see as a march to autocracy.
According to data by the high election board (YSK), turnout for the first round was more than 87% including diaspora votes.
Polls will open at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and close at 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) for more than 60 million voters. Unofficial results are expected to emerge by late on Sunday.
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