Polls Open in Turkish Parliamentary Elections

Posted June 12th, 2011 at 1:35 am (UTC-5)
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Voters in Turkey are casting ballots in the country's parliamentary elections.

Turkey's prime minister and his Islamic-rooted party are poised to win a third straight term in power Sunday.

Boosted by a booming economy and rising power on the world stage, Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP, now hopes to gain a crucial two-thirds majority in parliament, which would allow it to change the constitution.

Mr. Erdogan's critics say his political goal is to create a more presidential-style government with him in control.

Some critics claim that Mr. Erdogan already is abusing his power, and say he is moving away from a secular state to a more conservative, Islamic form of government.

Opposition Republican People's Party candidate Oguz Kaan Salici says the government has become increasingly intolerant to criticism.

AKP candidate Volkan Bozkir has said a new constitution would enshrine the rights of minorities, such as the Kurds who have been fighting for autonomy in eastern Turkey.

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.