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Turkey

Erdogan closes campaign with promise of a 'new Turkey'

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan has wrapped up his presidential election campaign by saying victory for him would mark the dawn of a "new Turkey." Opinion polls show that his victory is almost certain.

Prime Minister Erdogan wrapped up his election campaign on Saturday with a rally that drew tens of thousands of his supporters in the city of Konya in Anatolia, which is known as a bastion of his Justice and Development Party (AKP).

"Tomorrow, God willing, a new Turkey will be established, anew, a strong Turkey will again rise from the ashes," Erdogan said.

If elected president in Sunday's election, Erdogan said he would raise democratic standards and help boost the economy to make Turkey a "world leader and global power."

"There is no unattainable dream or unattainable objective for this nation. The 12 years we have passed are a witness to this," he said, apparently referring to a record of economic growth since the AKP party came to power in 2002.

This is the first time that Turkish voters have had the opportunity to elect their president directly, with the incumbent, Abdullah Gul, as well as most of his predecessors having been selected by parliament.

Erdogan has said that, if elected, he would use his five-year term to push for constitutional changes to give the Turkish presidency US-style executive powers.

The latest survey by the private Konda research institute predicted that Erdogan would win 57 percent of the vote in Sunday's first round of the election, meaning there would be no need for an August 24 runoff.

Deep split

Recent opinion polls also suggest that the Turkish public are deeply split over Erdogan, whom critics accuse of trying to clamp down on the media and of a generally authoritarian style of leadership.

Just this past week, Erdogan locked horns with a prominent member of the media, lashing out at Economist and Taraf reporter Amberin Zaman at a campaign rally, in which he described her as a "militant in the guise of a journalist."

Erdogan's challengers in the election are Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, the elderly ex-head of the Organization of Islamic Conferences, who wants the presidency kept only as a symbolic post, and the Kurdish candidate Selahattin Demirtas, who campaigned on human rights issues.

The Konda survey gave Ihsanoglu 34 percent and Demirtas 9 percent support.

Close to 2.8 million expatriate Turks in 54 countries, including Germany, were eligible to cast early votes up until August 3. Less than 250,000 registered to do so.

pfd/mkg (AFP, dpa)

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