ANKARA - Turkey's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) is poised to win parliamentary elections on Sunday for a third single-party rule as initial results showed it swept around half of national votes.
Turkey's Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, accompanied by his wife Emine Erdogan, greets his supporters at the AK Party headquarters in Ankara June 12, 2011. [Photo/Agencies]
Counting of 99.6 percent of the total votes put the AKP's share of votes at 49.9 percent currently, ahead of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) with 25.9 percent, and the second biggest opposition party Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with 13. 1 percent, Turkish channel NTV reported.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also AKP chairman, said Sunday night that they were pleased with the result, noting that his party received 21 million votes on Sunday, up from 16 million votes in the elections of 2007.
"Today, it was democracy that won. Again, the will of the people won," Erdogan said in a speech to a joyous sea of supporters celebrating their victory at AKP headquarters in Ankara.
He said nobody should doubt the AKP would respect the living styles, beliefs, values, pride and honor of every one, including those who did not vote for them.
"Our government will be the government of all Turkish people, not only for the people who voted for AKP," said Erdogan.
Supporters at AKP headquarters cheered and waved flags as they listened to Erdogan's words, while the city's landmark Atakule tower was lit up in color with fireworks bursting in the night sky.
According to the votes, the AKP could collect 325 seats in the parliament, the CHP could get 135 seats and the MHP 54 seats, said the NTV report.
Independent candidates were shown to get 6.6 percent of votes and 36 parliamentary seats, according to NTV.
The AKP raised its share of votes from 46.5 percent in the 2007 elections, but the number of its seats in the parliament decreased from 341 to around 325, mainly due to a decision of the Supreme Election Board (YSK) to redistribute the number of parliamentary seats in each province.
Tarhan Erdem, a prominent pollster, told NTV on Sunday that major parties raised their votes in the elections while small- scale parties received fewer votes.
CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu said Sunday night his party received its highest vote since the military coup of September 1980, proudly announcing that it was the only party that increased the number of its parliamentary deputies in this election.
"We wish the AKP success, however, they should not forget that CHP is much stronger today," Kilicdaroglu said when addressing supporters at CHP headquarters in Ankara.
Founded in 2001 by former members of several other parties including the banned Islamist Virtue Party, the AKP came into office in 2002, just after economic crises that marked the 1990s of Turkey.
Led by Erdogan, it has achieved an unchallengeable economic record while carrying out EU-inspired reforms to shake off coup era dust and kudos-winning diplomacy in its region.
Under the AKP rule, Turkey became the world's 17th largest economy and rebounded from the global recession last year with an 8.9 percent growth.
The AKP also succeeded to open EU accession talks in 2005, which boosted economic, social and political reforms attracting foreign investment to the country. Meanwhile, reforms diminishing the Turkish army's role in political life have brought political stability.
In foreign policy, Erdogan's harsh criticism towards Israel has increased his popularity not only among Turks, but also in the Arab world.
The opposition accuses the AKP of shifting capital to the pro- government circles and broadening the wealth gap. They also worry about AKP's growing intolerance of critics, especially increasing numbers of journalists detained under the AKP rule.
The government said the journalists were arrested for criminal cases, not for their writings.
"Figures showed that center-right votes of Turkey went to AKP," Fikret Bila, a leading Turkish columnist, told CNNTurk news channel on Sunday.
The AKP had put its efforts into winning nationalist votes in its campaign and it contributed to increasing its ratio, Prof. Deniz Ulku Aribogan, Bahcesehir University rector, told CNNTurk.
The 325 seats the AKP is set to win out of 550 is slightly below the number required to re-write Turkey's constitution, which the ruling party pursued as an election pledge. But with that many seats, the AKP only needs a few opposition deputies' support to amend the charter.
The making of a new constitution requires at least 330 votes of deputies in the Turkish parliament. If the number of votes is between 330 and 367, the draft is automatically taken to a referendum. If the number reaches 367, it will be passed without the approval of a referendum.
To soothe concerns over lack of compromise, Erdogan has said all political parties and social groups will be part of the drafting of the new constitution.
The pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which had to run its candidates as independents in order to overcome the 10 percent electoral threshold, increased its seats in the parliament. The BDP-supported 61 independent candidates were expected to have occupy about 32 parliamentary seats.
After Sunday's elections, Turkish parliament also had its first Christian deputy named Erol Dora, who ran for the BDP in southeast Mardin province of Turkey.
Among over 50 million eligible voters, 38.7 million Turkish people went to ballot boxes on Sunday to elect 550 lawmakers out of 7,492 candidates from 15 political parties and 203 independent candidates.
In the last general elections in 2007, the AKP garnered 46.5 percent of votes, higher than 34.3 percent in 2002, and took 341 seats in parliament, followed by the CHP, which won 20.7 percent and 112 seats. The MHP got 14.3 percent and 71 seats.