The Sun (Malaysia)

Turkey holds critical vote as violence spirals

> Divided country confronts militant attacks, renewed Kurdish conflict


ANKARA: Turks were voting yesterday in one of the most crucial elections in years, as the deeply divided country confronts a bloody wave of militant attacks and a renewed Kurdish conflict.

The poll is the second in just five months, called after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Developmen­t Party (AKP) lost its parliament­ary majority in June for the first time in 13 years and then failed to forge a coalition government.

Opinion polls are, however, predicting a replay yesterday, leaving the strategic Muslim-majority nation at risk of further instabilit­y just as it is facing what some observers warn are existentia­l threats.

Around 385,000 police and gendarmes have been mobilised nationwide, with security particular­ly high in the restive Kurdish majority southeast, where armoured vehicles and police were seen outside polling stations.

Turks are fearful of a return to all-out war with outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party rebels after renewed violence shattered a 2013 truce in July, just a month after a pro-Kurdish party took up seats in parliament for the first time, denying the AKP a majority.

The threat of further jihadist violence is also overshadow­ing the election after a string of attacks blamed on the Islamic State (IS) group, including twin suicide bombings on an Ankara peace rally that killed 102 people – the worst in the country’s modern history.

“All I want is peace and brotherhoo­d, we have suffered too much lately,” Kiziltopra­k Mahmut, 43, said in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir.

Turnout is expected to be high among the 54 million registered voters and there were early queues at polling stations.

First results are expected at around 1800 GMT (2am today in Malaysia), four hours after voting ends.

“To the ballot box for a free country,” was the headline in the opposition Zaman daily.

Erdogan’s conservati­ve, Islamic-leaning AKP is tipped to win between 40% and 43%, paving the way either for a shaky coalition that many analysts say will not last long, or yet another election.

With the country deeply polarised along ethnic and sectarian lines and its economy faltering, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called on Saturday on voters to choose “stability”.

“Turkey needs a strong and shrewd government at such a critical time,” said Davutoglu, whose own job could be at risk if the AKP fails to secure an outright victory.

The vote could also determine the future of Erdogan, who has dominated Turkey’s political scene for more than a decade, even though his name is not on the ballot paper. – AFP

 ?? REUTERSPIX ?? A man leaves the voting booth at a polling station in Diyarbakir yesterday.
REUTERSPIX A man leaves the voting booth at a polling station in Diyarbakir yesterday.

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