Turkey Goes to the Polls for Snap Election Amid Mounting Security Fears

by Reuters /  / Updated 

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ANKARA/ISTANBUL — Turks began voting on Sunday amid worsening security and economic worries in a snap parliamentary election that could profoundly impact the divided country's trajectory and that of President Tayyip Erdogan.

The parliamentary poll is the second in five months, after the ruling AK Party founded by Erdogan failed to retain its single-party majority in June.

Image: Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan exited a voting booth at a polling station in Istanbul on Sunday.DIMITAR DILKOFF / AFP - Getty Images

Since then, a ceasefire with Kurdish militants has collapsed into bloodshed, the Syria crisis has worsened and NATO-member Turkey has been hit by two ISIS-linked suicide-bomb attacks, killing more than 130.

There has been little sign of the flags, posters and campaign buses that thronged the streets in the build-up to June's vote, but Erdogan has framed this somber re-run as a pivotal opportunity for Turkey to return to single-party AKP rule after months of political uncertainty.

"This election will be for continuity of stability and trust," he said after praying at a new Istanbul mosque on Saturday. He vowed to respect the result.

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Voting began in eastern Turkey at 7 a.m. local time and an hour later in the rest of the country.

Early voters in Istanbul were sharply divided in their views on a return to single-party rule or the prospect of a coalition.

"The AK Party says single-party rule will bring stability but we haven't seen much of it in the last couple of years," said 22-year-old nurse Gulcan. "We need a system of checks and balances and a grand coalition will hopefully give us that."

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"Coalitions are just not good for Turkey. There has to be single-party rule for stability," said 51-year-old Kahraman Tunc, voting with his wife and daughter. "For the sake of our country's good I hope there will be AK Party single-party rule."

The election was prompted by the AKP's inability to find a junior coalition partner after the June result. Erdogan's critics say it represents a gamble by the combative leader to win back enough support so the party can eventually change the constitution and give him greater presidential powers.

Many polls suggest that while support for the center-right, Islamist-rooted party may have inched up, the outcome is unlikely to be dramatically different to June, when it took 40.9 percent of the vote.

However, one survey released on Thursday suggested there had been a late surge in support for the AKP and that it could take as much as 47.2 percent, comfortably enough to secure more than half of the 550-seat parliament.

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