ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turks headed to the polls Sunday for the second time in five months in a crucial election that will determine whether the ruling party can restore the parliamentary majority it enjoyed for 13 years.
The contest is a rerun of a June election in which the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, surprisingly lost its one-party rule. The key question Sunday is whether the party gets enough seats for an outright majority in parliament or whether it will have to form a coalition in order to govern.
The election comes as Turkey is facing its worst violence in years. Renewed fighting between Turkey’s security forces and Kurdish rebels has killed hundreds of people and shattered an already-fragile peace process. Two recent massive suicide bombings at pro-Kurdish gatherings that killed some 130 people, apparently carried out by an Islamic State group cell, have also increased tensions.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu is calling on voters to choose stability and give AKP a new majority. Opposition parties hope to force Davutoglu into forming a coalition.
More than 54 million people are eligible to vote at more than 175,000 polling stations. Turnout is expected to be high.
President Recep Tayyip Erdogan is not on the ballot, but voters will determine whether he can continue to be Turkey’s primary political power by guiding the ruling party in parliament.
Erdogan called for new elections after Davutoglu failed to form a coalition with any of the three opposition parties in parliament in June. Some believe, however, that Erdogan never wanted a coalition government, and goaded Davutoglu into trying to win back a majority in a new election.
“Unfortunately, it was a difficult and troubled period of election campaigning. Lives were lost,” said Selahattin Demirtas, the leader of Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, after he cast his vote in Istanbul.
“My wish is that a great hope for peace and calm emerges (from the vote),” he said.
In the June vote, his party for the first time cleared a 10 percent threshold needed for representation as a party in parliament, taking seats mostly at the ruling party’s expense.
The HDP favors the resumption of peace efforts to end the Kurdish conflict. Erdogan has lashed out at the party, calling it the political arm of the Kurdistan Workers Party, which Turkey and most Western countries consider a terrorist organization.