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Turks head to polls in parliamentary elections

Turks are voting in a crucial parliamentary election - their second since June. Security has been a main concern ahead of the poll, which could determine the fate of President Erdogan.

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Turkey returns to the polls

Turks are heading to the polls to vote in their nation's second election in five months, as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) failed to win a parliamentary majority in June.

Voting is taking place from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. local time (0400-1300 UTC). Over 54 million people are registered to vote out of a population of nearly 78 million, with 2.9 million registered to vote abroad.

"This election will be for continuity of stability and trust," President Erdogan said Saturday after praying at newly built mosque in Istanbul.

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said at a campaign rally in Ankara on Saturday that the election is a "referendum on Turkey's future," and added, "Turkey needs a strong and shrewd government at such a critical time."

Since the June elections, a ceasefire with Kurdish militants has collapsed with bloodshed, the crisis in Syria has worsened,

press freedoms have been restricted

and two Islamic State-linked suicide bombs have hit the country, which killed more than 130 people.

Opinion polls are predicting a similar result that occurred in June elections, in which the AKP party took 40.9 percent of the vote.

However, a survey released on Thursday suggested AKP could garner as much as 47.2 percent of the vote, which would grant the party more than half of the 550-seat parliament.

Hope for stability

If the AKP fails to secure a majority, it could be forced to negotiate with either the country's main secularist Republican People's Party (CHP) or the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP). An inconclusive result could also further damage relations with the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), with whom violence renewed in June, shattering a 2013 peace truce.

"This is an important election…I expect an AKP-CHP coalition. It could help maintain stability," said a 21 –year-old barber in the capital, Ankara.

Western allies hope the snap elections will usher in stability, allowing Ankara to take a bigger role in stemming Europe's migrant crisis and helping to fight against Islamic State militants.

Around 385,000 police are expected to be deployed, as security is seen as a paramount concern ahead of the vote.

smm/bw (AFP, Reuters)

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