Divided Turkey Heads to Polls Under Shadow of Conflict

Turkey will hold a deeply divisive election amid renewed conflict in the south-east and an ever-increasing threat from Islamist extremism.

Published: 01st November 2015 08:27 AM  |   Last Updated: 01st November 2015 08:27 AM   |  A+A-

LONDON: Turkey will hold a deeply divisive election today (Sunday) amid renewed conflict in the south-east and an ever-increasing threat from Islamist extremism.

Many fear that Turkey is sliding into authoritarianism under the rule of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

If the president's Justice and Development Party (AKP) does not win enough seats to form a government, there are fears he will become still more autocratic.

This is already Turkey's second election of the year: no party won an overall majority in the last contest on June 7. Since then, the country has been hit by a twin suicide bombing in Ankara, believed to be the work of an Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant cell, which killed more than 100 people.

A two-year ceasefire between the Turkish state and the insurgents of the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) has also broken down.

In the last election, the Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) became the first pro-Kurdish party to enter parliament, depriving Mr Erdogan's AKP of its majority. Since then, the security forces have been unleashed in Kurdish areas.

Last month, police and youth militia fought each other on the streets of Diyarbakir, the south-eastern city that Kurds call their capital.

Locals there accused police of killing Helin Sen, a 12-year-old girl, who was shot in the head when she went out to buy bread on Oct 11.

"Helin is not a terrorist, she's not a guerrilla," said her father, Ekrem Sen. "If it had been my father, my brother - even my wife - it would not pain me so much as losing my first-born."

None the less, many people said they would vote for the HDP. "People are patient because they are hoping for peace. You cannot bomb this hope," said Ziya Pir, one of 10 MPs from the HDP elected in Diyarbakir this June.

But Mr Pir feared the violence had shattered what little trust the Kurdish electorate had in the system.

Polls suggest this election will repeat June's result, with the HDP on about 10 per cent and the AKP failing to win a majority. The question will then be whether a coalition government can be formed.

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