Muharrem Ince, whose fiery campaigning has revitalized Turkey’s demoralized opposition, promised to push back what he characterized as a slide into authoritarian rule under Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
He told at least a million people gathered in Istanbul: “If Erdogan wins, your phones will continue to be listened to… Fear will continue to reign. If Ince wins, the courts will be independent.”
Muharrem Ince also said that if elected, he would lift Turkey’s state of emergency within 48 hours. Emergency rule allows the government to bypass parliament.
At his own rally, Recep Tayyip Erdogan – who was prime minister for 11 years before becoming president in 2014 – used a violent metaphor to summarize his hoped-for result, asking supporters: “Are we going to give them an Ottoman slap [a technique for knocking someone out] tomorrow?”
The incumbent president accused his rival – a former teacher and lawmaker of 16 years – of lacking the skills to lead.
“It’s one thing to be a physics teacher, it’s another thing to run a country,” President Erdogan said.
“Being president needs experience.”
President Erdogan told supporters he planned to push through more major infrastructure projects to boost the economy.
Around 60 million Turks are eligible to take part in today’s vote.
Six candidates are vying for the presidency, and if one of them wins more than 50% of the vote they will be elected outright.
If nobody hits that threshold, the top two will face off in a second-round vote on July 8.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan will be hoping to win decisively, as a run-off vote could end in defeat or narrow his margin of victory.
In the parliamentary election, President Erdogan’s AK Party (AKP) will face a tough battle to keep its majority in the 600-seat assembly.
Turkey ex-president, General Kenan Evren, has died on May 9 at the age of 97.
On September 12, 1980, General Kenan Evren launched a coup that overthrew the government. He went on to serve as president until 1989.
Kenan Evren was put on trial in his 90s and was handed a life sentence for the coup in 2014.
Some 600,000 people were detained and 50 executed by hanging in the coup. All political parties were banned, with left-wing activists heavily targeted.
Kenan Evren died at a hospital in Ankara.
He had been in ill health since 2012 and was unable to appear in court when convicted.
The 1980 coup was the last and bloodiest of Turkey’s coups and came to symbolise the military’s long-standing dominance over Turkish politics.
Gen. Kenan Evren believed that his actions saved the country from descending into anarchy after deadly fighting between political extremists.
“Should we feed them in prison for years instead of hanging them?” he said in a speech in 1984, defending the decision to execute political activists.
Despite allegations of deaths and torture it appeared unlikely that the former president would ever face trial.
However, a constitutional clause granting the general immunity from prosecution was overturned after a referendum in 2010, as part of then PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s attempts to rein in the power of the army.
In 2014, a Turkish court convicted Kenan Evren of crimes against the state for setting the stage for army intervention and conducting the coup.
Kenan Evren’s career’s begin as an officer from a military academy, was made a general and rose to become chief of the general staff.
During the years leading up to the 1980 coup, there was widespread political violence on the streets involving far-right and far-left activists, which the military said the government was incapable of controlling.
After the coup, parliament was dissolved and Kenan Evren ruled the country as the head of the National Security Council.
The council oversaw the drawing up of a new constitution, which was approved by a referendum and made Kenan Evren president for a seven-year term.
Parliamentary elections were held during this time and Turkey applied to join the European Economic Community, the precursor to the European Union.
During Kenan Evren’s retirement two plots to assassinate him were thwarted and he took up painting.