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"This stability must continue and that can happen with Erdogan so I voted for him", said janitor Mehmet Yildirim, 48, in Istanbul. Meanwhile, Erdogan's main rival, opposition candidate Muharrem Ince, has been drawing large crowds of support and is expected to take the election into a second runoff vote with Erdogan.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has said he expects the level of development of his country to reach the levels of Russian Federation and the United States. Almost 60 million Turks are eligible to vote, out of a total population of 81 million.

Voting has started. After 15 years in power that have already seen Turkey transformed, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wants to win a new mandate and rank as the key figure of his country's modern history alongside its founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

Turkey will go to polls on June 24 for presidential and parliamentary elections. Critics say it will further erode democracy in the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation member state and entrench one-man rule. The victor will assume vast new presidential powers.

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. Fear will continue to reign. "If Ince wins, the courts will be independent", said Ince, adding he would lift Turkey's state of emergency within 48 hours of being elected. According to the latest United Nations figures, some 160,000 people have been detained and almost as many more sacked in the crackdown.

The vote will be closely watched by the European Union - which Erdogan says he still wants Turkey to join despite the accession process grinding to a halt - and the United States which has seen no improvement in ties with its North Atlantic Treaty Organisation ally under Donald Trump. Few newspapers or other media now openly criticise the government and he has received far more election coverage than other presidential candidates.

Erdogan, who has dominated Turkish politics for a decade and a half, is tipped to win the presidential election but possibly only in a run-off set for early July, opinion polls suggest.

Selahattin Demirtas, another presidential candidate who heads the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP), called on people to vote for his party. "Backing the HDP means supporting democracy", Demirtas said in a video clip from prison, where he is being held on terror-related charges.