Turkey's Erdogan faces toughest contest yet

STORY: He's dominated politics in Turkey for two decades.

Now Tayyip Erdogan is putting his rule on the line, as he faces opposition challenger Kemal Kilicdaroglu in Turkey's landmark elections on Sunday (May 14).

Polls currently suggest Kilicdaroglu has an edge, but that Erdogan could yet prevail given his strong support base in his devout working-class heartlands.

Those who have followed Erdogan's rise over the last three decades argue he will fight by all means to retain power.

And that he could use state resources to his benefit to snatch a slim victory or to contest any narrow defeat.

European Union and NATO members will also be watching this election closely.

Relations between Erdogan and the EU have become strained in recent years.

And leading members of NATO have expressed alarm at Erdogan's close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin -- concerned that Turkey is being used to circumvent sanctions on Moscow over its war in Ukraine.

In a Reuters interview on Friday, Kilicdaroglu accused Russia of interference in the election, claiming his party has concrete evidence of Russia's responsibility for the release of "deep fake" online content.

The Kremlin said on Friday that allegations Russia had meddled in the upcoming Turkish presidential election were false and had been concocted by liars.

At home, Turks have been battered by crippling inflation, a collapsing lira and a sharp decline in living standards in recent years.

Problems compounded by February's devastating earthquake that killed thousands and left millions homeless.

Erdogan has sought to sway voters by promoting big infrastructure and construction projects, showcasing Turkey's industrial milestones, and warning of chaos in government in the event of an opposition win.

His rival Kilicdaroglu is targeting voters disillusioned by Erdogan's rhetoric and perceived economic mismanagement, promising prosperity and greater respect for human rights and rule of law.

If no-one secures more than half of the votes in the first round, a May 28 run-off will be held between the two leading candidates.