Ruling Party Takes Huge Lead In Turkish Election

Early results show Turkey's ruling Justice and Development (AK) party leading by a large margin in today's early parliamentary elections, which are seen as crucial to Turkey's future political and social direction.

Landslide Victory Expected

With 35 percent of the vote counted, the AK party appears to have won just over 50 percent of the vote.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) came second with just over 16 percent, and the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) third with 14 percent.

The pro-reform, Islamist-rooted AK'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 AK projected to win almost 47 percent.

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 percent of voters could cast their ballots.

Reports say many people have postponed or cut short holidays in order to go home to vote.

Several voters in Ankara spoke to Radio Farda ahead of today's 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 has other priorities. "I will vote for a leader who fights against terrorist activities," he said.

Early Elections

Today'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 ruling AK party, which also denies it wants to turn Turkey into an Iranian style theocracy.

The "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 process.

High Stakes

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 future direction.

Erdogan, Turkey's most popular politician, on July 21 urged voters to grant him a fresh five-year mandate to continue the AK'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 AK party's bulb [the symbol of AKP]."

Some independent, mostly pro-Kurdish candidates are also tipped to win seats in the 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 neighboring Iraq.

(Radio Farda, with material from news agencies)

Ruling Party Takes Huge Lead In Turkish Election

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