Turkey’s opposition has told its supporters to stay home, whether they win or lose amid fears of violence as votes were being counted in the country’s election on Sunday night.
With almost 95 per cent of ballot boxes counted, incumbent president Recep Tayyip Erdogan had 49.6 per cent of the vote, according to the state-run Anadolu Agency. His main rival, opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, had 44.7 per cent after the gap between the two shrank as the night went on.
If neither candidate secures more than 50 per cent, the two will compete in a May 28 presidential runoff. The majority of ballots from the 3.4 million eligible voters living abroad still needed to be tallied, according to the Supreme Electoral Board, and a runoff election is not yet assured.
Instead of addressing his supporters and members of the press, Mr Erdogan released a short statement late on Sunday, urging for caution as he insisted “trying to declare results in a haste means usurping the nation’s will”.
He hailed the vote as a “great feast of democracy” that was held in “peace and quiet”.
His party’s spokesman in a statement on Sunday night pushed back the opposition claims of a lead, insisting that “our president is clearly leading by a wide margin”.
Omer Celik said Mr Erdogan’s party will “respect the authority” of the election and will not announce their own count.
Canan Kaftancioglu, the head of the Istanbul chapter of Mr Kilicdaroglu’s party, told reporters in Istanbul they were leading on 51.4 percent in Turkey’s largest city with 40 per cent of the votes counted.
She would not give any nationwide figures but said: “Our presidential candidate seems to be pushing for over 50 per cent.”
As the polls closed in Turkey, Mr Erdogan tweeted to his followers: “The voting process has been completed throughout the country in a way that befits our democracy.
“Now, as always, it is time to firmly protect the ballot boxes. Until the results are finalised, we continue to protect the will of our nation.”
Meanwhile, Ekrem Imamoglu, Mr Kilicdaroglu’s running mate, earlier said they were leading in the polls, telling reporters: “We are ahead everywhere in Turkey, especially in Ankara and Istanbul.”
“We can say tonight that Kilicdaroglu will be our country’s new president, we believe in this.”
Mr Kilicdaroglu himself tweeted: “We are ahead.”
Unofficial reports suggested a record number of voters taking part, with observers at individual polling stations reporting a turnout close to 90 per cent.