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Legislative elections open in Turkey

world Updated: Jul 22, 2007 16:27 IST

Voters went to the polls across Turkey on Sunday for early legislative elections in which the ruling Islamist-rooted party is tipped to secure a second mandate in power, the CNN-Turk news channel reported.

The July 22 polls were called to end a political crisis that pitted Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's government against the secular establishment over botched presidential elections.

The governing Justice and Development Party (AKP) is expected to win a solid victory in Sunday's polls despite accusations that it is seeking to undermine the separation of state and religion.

The AKP, which has its roots in a now-defunct Islamist party, says it has disowned its radical roots and is committed to the country's secular tradition.

But critics charge that the party has a secret Islamist agenda and wants to install an Iranian-style regime in the mainly Muslim country.
Voting began at 0400 GMT in the east of the country and will continue until 1300 GMT while polling stations in the west of the country were to open an hour later and close at 1400 GMT.

Initial results are not expected until late Sunday.

The country plunged into turmoil in April when the AKP tried to install a former Islamist to the presidency and the secular opposition boycotted a parliamentary vote to decide the issue.

The crisis was heightened when the military warned it was ready to defend the secular system and millions of Turks demonstrated across the country against the prospect of an AKP president.

Erdogan was forced to bring legislative elections forward from November.

The opposition has tried to maintain that momentum during the election campaign but recent polls showed the AKP had benefited most from the crisis.

According to the latest polls, the AKP will garner some 40 per cent of the vote, well above its 34 per cent showing in the previous election.

The staunchly secular main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was tipped to come in second place, while the right-wing Nationalist Action Party was expected to return to parliament after an absence of five years.

Several independent lawmakers, mostly members of the pro-Kurdish Democratic Society Party, are also expected to win seats.