ANKARA, Aug. 10 (Xinhua) -- Turkish people started voting on Sunday to choose the first president in their country's modern history that will be elected by a general public rather than the parliament.
The voting began at 8:00 a.m. local time (0500 GMT) on Sunday at all polling stations across the country, as some 53 million citizens are expected to cast their ballots, despite a fairly low turnout in an earlier overseas voting by Turkish expats.
All three candidates, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), joint nominee of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, and Selahattin Demirtas of the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), have concluded their election campaigns by Saturday evening, as required by an election law.
During his last-minute rally in the Central Anatolian province of Konya on Saturday, Erdogan, the presidential hopeful, called on his supporters to respond to "any kind of fraud."
"I believe that you will make the ballot boxes explode. Never leave the ballot boxes without receiving the minutes of the proceedings showing the number of counted ballots. You will respond to any kind of fraud with those minutes," Erdogan said.
In his previous campaigns, the prime minister has never intended to hide his ambition to steer Turkey's parliamentary system to a presidential one, by concentrating more powers to the president office.
"Maybe this is my last rally as prime minister and AK Party chair. This is not a farewell. This can only be a farewell to the old Turkey," Erdogan said.
His major rival, Ihsanoglu, the former Secretary-General of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, also warned of "fat cats" that may "threaten the safety of ballot boxes."
"The votes that are won at the ballot box are being lost on tables. We shouldn't let Turkey lose its last chance," Ihsanoglu said while addressing members at the CHP's local branch in Istanbul on Saturday.
"Those fat cats that threaten the safety of the ballot boxes, those dark hands, have started to appear," he warned.
The third candidate, Demirtas, is not expected to win the race. But ballots to the Kurdish politician may determine whether Erdogan could pocket more than half of the total votes, a situation that would declare the prime minister an instant winner.
Demirtas' party, the HDP, is seen as a political extension of the PKK, an organization that has been blacklisted as a terrorist group by Turkey, the United States and the European Union.
The PKK has fought against the Turkish government for three decades, resulting in heavy casualties of some 40,000 people on both sides.