Initial Results: Turkey’s Ruling Party on Course to Win Parliamentary Elections

Posted June 12th, 2011 at 12:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Early unofficial results from Turkey's parliamentary elections Sunday indicate the country's prime minister and his Islamic-rooted party are on course to win a third straight term in power.

With more than 21 percent of the vote counted, unofficial results have Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, securing more than 54 percent, with the opposition Republican People's Party trailing at about 20 percent. Anatolia news agency says the Nationalist Action Party and independents both stand at about 12 percent of the vote counted so far.

About 50 million voters were eligible to cast ballots in Sunday's election.

It is too early to tell whether the AKP party has gained a two-thirds majority in the 550-seat parliament, which would allow it to introduce a new constitution which the party says would be more democratic. Supporters of Mr. Erdogan say a new constitution would enshrine the rights of minorities, such as the Kurds who have been fighting for autonomy in southeastern Turkey.

But critics of the Turkish leader say his government has become increasingly intolerant to criticism, and that his political goal is to create a more presidential-style government with him in control. They also accuse him of abusing his power and moving away from a secular state to a more conservative, Islamic form of government.

Though Sunday's vote was peaceful, the Anatolia news agency says police detained 34 people in the mainly Kurdish southeast province of Batman for allegedly trying to coerce people into supporting Kurdish nationalists running as independents.

The Kurds had threatened earlier this year to boycott the elections after Turkey's main election board announced plans to ban seven Kurdish candidates from running. That decision was later reversed.

The outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party, or PKK, has been fighting Turkey's military for an ethnic homeland since 1984. An estimated 40,000 people have died in the armed campaign.

Turkey, the United States and the European Union consider the PKK a terrorist group.