(photo credit: JPOST STAFF)
ANKARA - Eighteen-year-old student Sena Su Baysal, a first-time voter in Turkey's election on Sunday, can't remember life before President Tayyip Erdogan took power but she wishes she had grown up in those earlier times.
"Turkey used to be a more modern and secular country," she says at home in the capital Ankara, where she lives with her parents. "I would have liked to have lived then."
Mehmet Salih Takil, another student born in 2000, disagrees. He says Erdogan is his idol, and he criticizes the "old Turkey."
"I was two years old when Erdogan came to power. My family tells me of the pre-2000 years, life was difficult then. I wouldn't have wanted to live in those years," he said at an election rally for Erdogan in Ankara.
Like the rest of the country, Turkish teenagers taking part for the first time in elections on Sunday have sharply differing takes on Erdogan - the most successful and polarizing leader in recent Turkish politics.
His AK Party won elections in 2002 and he took power early the next year, ruling the country since then, first as prime minister and then as president.
Polls suggest Sunday's vote may be close, with the AK Party possibly losing its parliamentary majority and the presidential vote potentially going to a second round.
Erdogan's supporters, many of them pious conservatives from Turkey's rural heartlands, say he has brought economic growth and restored Islam to public life. Opponents say he has eroded the secular pillars of the republic established by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk and is plunging Turkey into authoritarianism.