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ISTANBUL – Turkish voters will vote Sunday in a historic double election for the presidency and parliament.
The vote will be a game changer, putting into full force constitutional changes transforming Turkey's ruling system into an executive presidency. It will either solidify President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's grip on the nation of 81 million people, or restrain his political ambitions.
The elections are taking place 16 months earlier than scheduled, amid a lengthy state of emergency and signs of a declining economy.
Here is a look at the key facts:
More than 59 million Turkish citizens, including some 3 million living abroad, are eligible to vote in the June 24 elections.
Voting will last from 0500 GMT to 1400 GMT across the country in some 181,000 polling stations. Voting in 60 countries for expatriate Turks ended Tuesday but voters can cast their ballots at Turkey's border crossings until the official end of the election.
Six candidates are running for a five-year presidential term. The leading contender is incumbent Erdogan, a former Istanbul mayor who rose to the helm of national politics when he became prime minister in 2003 and then, in 2014, became the first directly elected president.
A candidate must secure more than 50 percent of the vote for an outright win. If that threshold is not reached, a second round will take place on July 8 between the two leading contenders.
The main challenge to Erdogan comes from a dynamic former physics teacher, Muharrem Ince, who was nominated by the leading opposition party.
Also running is Meral Aksener, a former interior minister.
A pro-Kurdish human rights lawyer, Selahattin Demirtas, is leading his campaign via social media from jail.
THE EXECUTIVE PRESIDENCY
Constitutional amendments narrowly approved in a contentious referendum last year will take effect with these elections, transforming Turkey's parliamentary governing system into an executive presidency.
Abolishing the position of prime minister, the president will take over the executive branch and form the government, appoint ministers, vice presidents and high-level bureaucrats, issue decrees, prepare the budget and decide on security policies. The president can also dissolve parliament by calling for early elections, but that would also shorten his or her term.
Under the new system, parliament proposes laws, has the power to ratify or reject the president's budget or move for new dual elections.
THE PARLIAMENTARY VOTE
Turks will also elect 600 lawmakers to parliament, with eight parties and independent candidates competing for five-year terms. The dual elections and the expansion of parliament by 50 seats are part of the changes approved by referendum last year.
Also new in this election is a change to electoral laws permitting parties to form alliances. This means smaller allied parties can bypass the minimum 10 percent threshold required for a single party to enter parliament. Five of the parties are running both individually and as part of two competing alliances.
In the "People Alliance," Erdogan's Justice and Development Party is joined by the Nationalist Movement Party. The small far-right Great Unity Party supports it.
The "Nation Alliance" consists of the secular Republican People's Party, the nascent nationalist Good Party and the small Islamic-leaning Felicity Party. Also supporting the alliance for parliament but not running individually is the small center-right Democrat Party.
The pro-Kurdish liberal Peoples' Democratic Party has been left out of the opposition alliance and will have to pass the threshold alone.
Erdogan's call for early elections caught Turkey off guard and sent the opposition scrambling to compete.
A master campaigner, Erdogan had already been rallying his base for months through state and party events, showcasing completed and planned projects while lambasting his opponents. Mainstream television channels broadcast each speech live as Erdogan's hold on the media tightens further.
Meanwhile, Ince's campaign broadcasts are sometimes cut short to accommodate Erdogan's speeches, while Aksener is rarely aired and Demirtas is incarcerated. They all rely on social media to reach voters.
Unlike recent elections, however, opposition candidates and parties are mounting a serious challenge and voters now have diverse options.
POTENTIAL FOR CONTROVERSY
The new ballots for parliament with the puzzling alliance and individual party options are bound to create confusion. Though Turkey's electoral board released examples of ballots showing what counts as a vote for an alliance or a party, voters remain uninformed.
Changes to the electoral laws have raised fears of fraud. Civil servants will now head ballot box committees and security forces may be called to polling stations. Citing security reasons, authorities have relocated thousands of polling stations in predominantly Kurdish eastern and southeastern provinces. That will affect some 144,000 voters, forcing them to travel further to cast ballots, some through military checkpoints.
Ballot papers carrying a watermark but not the ballot box committee's official stamp will be considered valid, something that led to allegations of fraud during last year's referendum.
The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe is monitoring the elections with 350 observers.
The vote is taking place under a state of emergency declared in the aftermath of the bloody 2016 coup. Under emergency powers, freedoms of assembly and press have been curtailed.