Early results show
Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party
(AKP) is leading by a large margin in Sunday's
parliamentary elections. The elections are seen as
crucial to Turkey's future political and social
With the vote still not fully
counted, unofficial results give the AKP 46.6%, up
more than 12 points on 2002, but a more united
opposition means the AKP will get 340 out of 550
seats, slightly fewer than it presently holds. The
main opposition Republican
People's Party is running
second with just over 16% and the Nationalist
Action Party third with 14%.
pro-reform, Islamist-rooted AKP's lead is expected
to decrease as counting progresses, since most of
the initial results came from the rural east where
the party is stronger, compared to the more urban
west. A survey by CNN-Turk showed the AKP
projected to win almost 47%.
A total of
42.5 million eligible voters had a choice of 14
parties and 700 independent candidates.
Participation is traditionally high, and media
have predicted that more than 80% of voters could
cast their ballots. Reports said many people
postponed or cut short holidays to go home to
Several voters in Ankara spoke to
Radio Farda ahead of the vote. "I will give my
vote to those parties who emphasize on improving
life of workers, civil servants and retirees,"
said Arzu, a 23-year-old woman. "Those who realize
the importance of education and the health system,
and defend [founder of the Turkish Republic]
Mustafa Kemal Ataturk's ideas and principles."
Reza Karaman, 40, said he had other
priorities. "I will vote for a leader who fights
against terrorist activities," he said.
Sunday's election was called early by
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to defuse a
political crisis over the Islamist-oriented ruling
party's choice of presidential candidate. The
county's powerful military and secular parties had
blocked the nomination of Foreign Minister
Abdullah Gul, whose wife wears a head scarf.
They said that Turkey's secularism was in
danger. However, the claim was dismissed by the
AKP, which also denies it wants to turn Turkey
into an Iranian-style theocracy.
Milliyet newspaper on July 21 quoted Gul as saying
that the military's warning had helped his party
during the campaign because voters were angry at
the military's effort to influence the political
Some analysts view this election
as one of the most important in the past 25 years,
because it is seen as a key to Turkey's direction.
Erdogan, Turkey's most popular politician,
on July 21 urged voters to grant him a fresh
five-year mandate to continue the AKP's record of
strong economic growth, rising living standards
and falling inflation. "We are in the final
hours," Erdogan said. "God willing, after 30
hours, Turkey is going to be brighter with the AK
party's bulb [the symbol of the AKP]."
Some independent, mostly pro-Kurdish
candidates are also tipped to win seats in
Parliament. The new Parliament will be immediately
faced with several issues, including a
presidential election and a continuing conflict
with Kurdish separatist rebels, some based in