Turks vote in election set to shape Erdogan's legacy
Updated: 2015-06-07 18:21
A special forces police officer takes security measures as he stands on top of a building where the portraits of Turkey's President Tayyip Erdogan (L), Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and a Turkish flag are displayed in Istanbul, Turkey, June 3, 2015. Turkey holds a parliamentary election on June 7 that could reshape its political landscape. Erdogan hopes the result will help move Turkey towards a presidential system, while the pro-Kurdish opposition is aiming to enter parliament as a party for the first time. [Photo/Agencies]
ISTANBUL - 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 Erdogan's political ambitions could hinge on that party's fate.
Turkey's most popular yet most divisive politician, Erdogan seeks a large majority for the ruling AK Party to boost his powers. He says a U.S.-style executive presidency is necessary to bolster the regional influence and economic advances of NATO-member Turkey.
"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 percent hurdle required to enter parliament. Opinion polls put it around that level.
Polling stations opened at 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) and some of the country's 54 million voters began voting.
"I am certain the HDP will exceed the threshold. My only worry is the theft of votes," said Bahar Haram, a 25-year-old social services worker voting in Diyarbakir, the biggest city in the mainly Kurdish southeast, where the HDP draws most of its support.
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.
Polling stations will close at 1400 GMT. The first results are set to be announced at 1800 GMT although authorities could lift a reporting ban before then.
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