Turkey votes in election crucial to legacy of Tayyip Erdogan
Result may see president extend his power or bring an end to 12 years of single party rule
Turkish president Tayyip Erdogan greeting supporters during a rally in Ankara. Photograph: Kayhan Ozer/EPA.
Supporters of Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) wave flags and hold posters of leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu during a rally in the district of Kadikoy in Istanbul. Photograph: Yasin Akguly/AFP/Getty Images.
A ballot paper is seen with party signs during Turkey’s general election at a polling station in Istanbul. Photograph: Ozan Kose/AFP/Getty Images.
Turks began voting on Sunday in the closest parliamentary election in more than a decade, one that could pave the way for president Tayyip Erdogan to amass greater power or end 12 years of single-party rule for the AK Party he founded.
A deadly bombing in the mainly Kurdish southeast on Friday has magnified attention on the pro-Kurdish opposition, which is trying to enter parliament as a party for the first time. Efforts to end a three-decade Kurdish insurgency as well as Mr Erdogan’s political ambitions could hinge on that party’s fate.
Turkey’s most popular yet most divisive politician, Mr Erdogan seeks a large majority for the ruling AK Party to boost his powers. He says a US-style executive presidency is necessary to bolster the regional influence and economic advances.
“They say ‘If Erdogan gets what he wants on Sunday he will be unstoppable’,” he told a rally in the northeastern province of Ardahan on Saturday. “They actually mean Turkey will be unstoppable.”
In power since 2002, the AKP is expected to again be the largest party by far. But achieving a majority may depend on the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) falling below the 10 per cent hurdle required to enter parliament. Opinion polls put it around that level.
Polling stations opened at 8am (6am Irish time) and some 54 million people are eligible to vote.
“I am certain the HDP will exceed the threshold. My only worry is the theft of votes,” said Bahar Haram (25), a social services worker voting in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
Like many in the region, her priority was an end to the conflict between Ankara and the militant Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), which took up arms in 1984 in an insurgency that has killed 40,000 people.
“We want peace, that’s all we want. We want this horrible war and fighting to come to an end.”
Jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan and the state launched peace talks more than two years ago and advancing the process could hinge on the outcome of the election.
The first results are set to be announced at about 6pm (Irish time) although authorities could lift a reporting ban before then.