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Early election returns show surprising gains for Turkey's ruling AKP party

Preliminary results have shown generous support for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). Turkey's polls were a key test for the political future of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Turkey's state-run TRT broadcaster said Sunday that early results suggested a surprising boost for the ruling AKP from

Sunday's parliamentary elections

.

It said that with about 88 percent of the ballots counted, the center-right AKP had won just shy of 50 percent of the poll, which would still comfortably restore its ruling majority following a setback in last June's election.

Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu - Erdogan's hand-picked party leader after he was

elected into the non-partisan office of president

- took to social media to describe the outcome in religious terms.

"Praise be to Allah..." he wrote on Twitter.

"Today is a victory for our democracy and our people," Davutoglu told a crowd of cheering AKP supporters outside his home in the central Anatolian city of Konya, a religiously conservative stronghold for the Islamist-rooted AKP.

"Hopefully we will serve you well for the next four years and stand in front of you once again in 2019," he said, referring to Turkey's general election four years away.

Fast return

Most analysts had expected the AKP to fall short of an outright majority, but preliminary returns suggest it was the only major party to improve its result. That has led to some skepticism by international reporters covering the election:

Meanwhile, the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party (HDP) was hovering just above the 10 per cent election threshold, according to the partial results.

Kurdish clashes

Clashes have reportedly broken out in the predomiantely Kurdish city of Diyarbakir between militants and security forces. Scuffles erupted outside of the headquarters of the HDP in the city. Riot police responded with tear gas as stone-throwing demonstrators blocked a main road in the city.

A senior official from Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) told the Reuters news agency there was no likelihood of a coalition government after Sunday's general election, with the AKP apparently on the path to an outright victory.

But results could still change as votes come in from disparate regions of the country.

Even so, supporters at the AKP's Istanbul headquarters were already waving flags and in a jubilant mood.

Erdogan aims for 'strong presidency'

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan hopes the AKP he helped found will help him rule Turkey through 2023.

The AKP had campaigned on stability for the country if it could achieve single-party rule. But its opponents worry Erdogan, by far the country's most dominant political figure, would attempt to change the constitution to grant himself unchecked executive powers.

If the AKP won 330 seats it could call a popular referendum on the constitution.

Watch video 01:31

Turkey returns to the polls

Opposition parties rejected this outright, fearing a weakening of parliament and opposition voices in a country that has grown increasingly polarized on religious verses secular lines.

Security has worsened since the June election. The country has seen bloody suicide attacks by the so-called "Islamic State" group, including

a twin blast in the capital Ankara

last month that left 102 people dead.

And the

conflict with the armed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK)

has also restarted, after a two-year ceasefire collapsed. Hundreds of people have died, mostly in the largely Kurdish southeast.

jar/jm (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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