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Ruling party in landslide poll win

world Updated: Jun 13, 2011 01:14 IST

Turkey's ruling Islamist-rooted party clinched a record landslide in Sunday's parliamentary polls but appeared short of the two-thirds majority it needs to rewrite the constitution, unofficial results showed.

With more than 95% of the vote counted, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was leading with 50.3% of the vote for a third straight win, according to results on CNN Turk television.

It was the party's highest electoral score since it came to power in 2002.

The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was second with 25.9%, followed by the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) with 13.1%.

The AKP got enough parliamentary seats to once again form the government on its own, but appeared to fall just short of the 330-seat majority in the 550-member parliament it was seeking to unilaterally amend the constitution, the legacy of a 1980 military coup.

It was set to win 325 seats, according to CNN Turk.

Thousands of ecstatic supporters gathered outside AKP offices in Ankara, dancing and singing, as the the refrain of the party's election song "Come on, once more!" blared from loudspeakers.

"Turkey is proud of you," they chanted, referring to Erdogan.

More than 50 million people were eligible to vote, out of a population of some 73 million.

The AKP owes its enduring popularity mostly to economic success and improved public services following years of financial instability that haunted Turkey under shaky coalition governments in the past.

Under the AKP, the economy grew by 8.9% in 2010, outpacing global recovery, and per capita income has doubled to $10,079.

His economic credits aside, Erdogan -- once the driving force of EU-sought reforms -- has come under fire for autocratic tendencies and growing intolerance of criticism.

With dozens of journalists in jail, the opposition is alarmed also over creeping restrictions on the Internet and an unprecedented outbreak of compromising wiretaps and videos of opposition figures circulating online.

Sex tapes forced 10 top MHP members to quit the election race, following a similar scandal last year that saw the veteran CHP leader resign.

Led by a popular new chairman, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the secularist centre-left CHP built its election campaign on pledges of democratic reform, arguing the AKP is turning Turkey into a "police state".

"Enough is enough. We are fed up with intimidation. I want a country where I can live without fear," Meryem, a teacher in her 40s, said in Ankara's upscale district of Cankaya after casting a vote for the CHP.

Erdogan has promised a more liberal constitution but has refused to specify what the overhaul would entail, fanning speculation with his advocacy of a presidential system for Turkey -- presumably with himself at the helm.

The AKP needs at least 330 seats to amend the constitution without support from other parties and put it to a referendum.

A two-thirds majority of 367 seats would enable the party to pass the amendments unilaterally.

Kurdish-backed candidates running as independents to circumvent the 10-percent national treshhold were expected to win up to 35 seats, according to the partial results.

Violence marred voting in Ankara, where opposition supporters attacked AKP members over an alleged attempt to sneak fake ballots papers into a polling station, Anatolia news agency reported.

Police fired shots in the air to end the melee and put the AKP members on a bus as enraged opposition supporters pelted the vehicle with stones, Anatolia said, adding that 14 people were detained.

In the mainly Kurdish city of Batman, police detained another 34 people on charges they threatened voters to support nationalist Kurdish candidates.