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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 20 July 2018

Frenetic election campaign keeps pace in final day of Turkey election campaign 

Erdogan, rival Ince trade blows on eve of crunch Turkey polls

Supporters of the Turkish President shout slogans as they attend a campaign rally in Istanbul on June 23, 2018, one day before presidential and parliamentary elections. Turkey is preparing for tight presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, while many analysts say the incumbent President wants a major foreign policy success to give him a final boost. / AFP / Aris MESSINIS
Supporters of the Turkish President shout slogans as they attend a campaign rally in Istanbul on June 23, 2018, one day before presidential and parliamentary elections. Turkey is preparing for tight presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, while many analysts say the incumbent President wants a major foreign policy success to give him a final boost. / AFP / Aris MESSINIS

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his main rival Muharrem Ince on Saturday traded blows in mass rallies on the final day of campaigning for Turkey's most fiercely contested elections in years.

Turks vote on Sunday in snap twin presidential and parliamentary elections called by Erdogan one-and-a-half years ahead of schedule, with the president seeking a first-round victory for a new mandate and a strong parliamentary majority.

But the emergence of the energetic Ince as the candidate for the Republican People's Party (CHP) and a wide-based opposition alliance have made the elections tighter than many analysts - and likely Erdogan - envisaged.

After mega-meetings by Ince in Izmir and Ankara over the last two days, hundreds of thousands packed the vast Maltepe shoreside on the Asian side of Istanbul for his final rally.

Ince claimed that five million people had surged to the Istanbul event but it was not possible to immediately confirm the numbers.

epa06833577 Supporters of Muharrem Ince, Presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), cheer during an election campaign rally, in Istanbul, Turkey, 23 June 2018. Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June 2018. EPA/SEDAT SUNA
epa06833577 Supporters of Muharrem Ince, Presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), cheer during an election campaign rally, in Istanbul, Turkey, 23 June 2018. Turkey will hold snap presidential and parliamentary elections on 24 June 2018. EPA/SEDAT SUNA

He painted a bleak picture of Turkey if Erdogan wins the elections, saying its currency would remain weak, prices high and the issue of 3.5 million Syrian refugees unsolved.

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"But if Ince wins, it will not just be Ince who wins... 80 million people will win! Turkey will win!" boomed Ince, who boasted of holding 107 rallies in the last 50 days.

He urged supporters to show "36 hours of mobilisation" for the voting and the count to ensure the elections proceed cleanly.

"Tomorrow, we will have a completely different Turkey. Tomorrow, discrimination will come to an end," said Ince, vowing a string of transformative measures from speeding up talks to join the EU to abolishing a hugely unpopular football fan ID card system.

There was a festive mood at his rally, with many participants travelling by ferry from the European side of Istanbul across the Sea of Marmara to the venue.

"We are supporting rights, law and justice. I'm supporting him (Ince) because he is natural, honest and humane," said supporter Cennet Sahin.

ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 23: Supporters wave flags and cheer as they go to Muharrem Ince with ferries, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) election rally on June 23, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Presidential candidates from all parties are holding campaign rallies across Turkey a day ahead of the countries June 24, parliamentary and presidential elections. Muharrem Ince is one of six candidates contesting the snap elections called by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More than 59 million citizens will vote for presidential and parliamentary elections tomorrow. The election will decide the faith of ErdoÄan's 16-year dominance in Turkish politics. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)
ISTANBUL, TURKEY - JUNE 23: Supporters wave flags and cheer as they go to Muharrem Ince with ferries, presidential candidate of Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) election rally on June 23, 2018 in Istanbul, Turkey. Presidential candidates from all parties are holding campaign rallies across Turkey a day ahead of the countries June 24, parliamentary and presidential elections. Muharrem Ince is one of six candidates contesting the snap elections called by Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. More than 59 million citizens will vote for presidential and parliamentary elections tomorrow. The election will decide the faith of ErdoÄan's 16-year dominance in Turkish politics. (Photo by Burak Kara/Getty Images)

While Ince in the last days of campaigning opted to hold a single mass rally a day in Turkey's three major cities, Erdogan has been holding a sequence of smaller but well-attended rallies in Istanbul.

"God willing, tomorrow evening we will be able to experience this happiness together," Erdogan told a rally in Istanbul. "Are you ready to bring victory?"

He lashed out at Ince, who has vowed to camp outside the headquarters of Turkey's election commission Sunday to ensure a fair count. "Mr Muharrem, we are living in a state of law," he said, adding "all measures" had been taken for voting security.

He also sought to ridicule Ince, a former physics teacher who has never held state office despite being an MP for 16 years, for his lack of experience.

"It's one thing to be a physics teacher, it's another thing to run a country," said Erdogan. "Being president needs experience. A president needs recognition from the international community."

High security is expected across the country Sunday, with 38,480 police officers expected to be on duty in Istanbul alone. As is customary in Turkey on election days, sales of alcohol in shops will also be prohibited.

Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey, June 23, 2018. REUTERS/Alkis Konstantinidis

Turkish police had on Friday detained in Ankara 14 suspected members of the Islamic State (IS) group accused of planning an attack on the elections.

On Saturday, 11 members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) were also held in Ankara on suspicion of planning a planning a "provocative action".

Turkey's opposition candidates have repeatedly complained over the lack of airtime offered by largely pro-government media. State-run TRT Haber news channel did now show Ince's speech live at all while only parts were broadcast on privately-owned CNN-Turk.

"There are five million people here in Maltepe. But no television channel is broadcasting this. This is what immorality looks like," said Ince.