Turkey appears headed for run-off vote and Erdoğan isn't doing well
A woman casts her ballot at a polling station during the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Shady Alassar/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa

Turkey appears headed for a run-off election in the race for the presidency, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's absolute majority has disappeared, according to state news agency Anadolu, which now puts the incumbent under 50%.

With more than 89% of the votes counted, Erdoğan was at around 49.94%, below the required absolute majority to win outright in the first round, the state-run Anadolu news agency reported on Sunday evening.

Opposition leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, joint candidate of a six-party alliance, was at 44.3%, according to the Anadolu figures. The state news agency usually publishes the count results in Erdoğan strongholds first.

Figures from the opposition party CHP and private news agency Anka have contradicted those from Anadolu. However the CHP has yet to update its latest figures.

The main opposition party CHP had previously accused Erdoğan's Islamic-conservative AKP of deliberately objecting to the results in opposition strongholds in an effort to slow down the counting and skew initial results in favour of the government.

If none of the presidential candidates gets more than 50% of the vote, the two leading candidates will go to a run-off on May 28.

Observers had been predicting a neck-and-neck race between Erdoğan, who has ruled the country for more than 20 years, and his main challenger Kılıçdaroğlu who has the support of a camp of different opposition parties.

The vote comes amid Turkey's worst economic crisis in two decades and February's devastating earthquakes in the country's east.

Observers have cited an unfair election campaign trail, with Erdoğan enjoying state resources and dominating the media landscape compared to the opposition's limited means.

The united opposition, a rare combination of secular, Islamic conservative and nationalist forces, seeks to convert Erdoğan's pious power base in the Anatolian heartland and end what they call his "autocratic" rule.

Throughout the campaign, Erdoğan showered the opposition with accusations ranging from alleged terrorism ties to degenerating youth and promoting a lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) agenda to collaborating with foreign agents.

Erdoğan still promised a peaceful transition if he loses.

His main challenger Kılıçdaroğlu, on the other hand, urged calm, trying to appear as a man of common sense, often stressing his humble roots from a village near the eastern town of Tunceli.

Erdoğan has promised to quickly reconstruct the quake-hit provinces, boost defence and infrastructure investments and raise wages significantly if he wins.

Kılıçdaroğlu has pledged to overhaul Erdoğan's presidential style of government, ease the economic crisis, fight corruption and restore ties with Western allies.

In the first decade following a reformist Erdoğan's rise to power in 2002, Turkey has seen an economy boom, relations with the West improve and democratic standards relatively improve.

The president owed much of his success to aligning with millions of pious voters' resentment against such ultra-secular measures as a headscarf ban in the 1990s, and such loyalty has barely waned.

Observers, however, believe Erdoğan may have lost many in his ranks, due to rocketing inflation and diving buying power and public resentment at the around 3.5 million Syrian refugees living in Turkey.

A man casts his ballot at a polling station during the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Shady Alassar/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
People wait to cast their ballots at a polling station during the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. Shady Alassar/ZUMA Press Wire/dpa
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan (L) greets people outside a polling station in Saffet Cebi Middle School, during the Presidential and Parliamentary Elections. -/Turkish Presidency/dpa