Divided Turkey votes in critical election as violence spirals

Turkey votes on Sunday in its most crucial election in years.

 Istanbul: Turkey votes on Sunday in its most crucial election in years as the deeply divided country confronts a bloody wave of jihadist attacks and a renewed Kurdish conflict.

The poll is the second in only five months, called after the Justice and Development Party (AKP) lost its parliamentary majority in June for the first time in 13 years of single- party rule and then failed to forge a power-sharing government.

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

Turks are fearful of a return to all-out war with outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) 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.

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

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamic-leaning AKP is tipped to win between 40 and 43 per cent of the vote, paving the way either for a shaky coalition that many analysts say will not last long, or yet another election.

With the country polarised along ethnic and sectarian lines and its economy faltering, Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu called yesterday 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.

"We will definitely clear Turkey of terror, fighting, violence and hostility. We will never make concessions on democracy, freedom and rights."

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.

The stunning June election setback wrecked - at least temporarily - his ambition to expand his role into a powerful US-style executive presidency that opponents fear would mean fewer checks and balances on a man seen as increasingly autocratic.  

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