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Feature: Turks turn out in force for general elections
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07:56, July 23, 2007

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Hundreds of Turkish people were patiently waiting Sunday morning in long queues at the polling stations across Ankara to cast their votes in the country's general elections termed by Turkish President Ahmet Necdet Sezer as one "for our people and our nation."

Accompanied by his wife Semra, Sezer cast his ballot at Ahmat Andisen primary school in Ankara around 9:00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT).

More than 42.5 million registered voters out of a 70-million- plus population are supposed to vote on Sunday at nearly 158,700 polling stations in 85 electoral zones across Turkey.

"I got up at five o'clock today," 67-year-old Yilmaz Kaan told Xinhua as he was waiting, adding "We come to vote for the future of our country."

After inserting their vote into the polling box, every voter had their left index finger marked with blue ink.

Fourteen political parties and a total of 7,394 candidates, including 699 independent candidates, will run for the elections.

Recent polls showed that some 35 to 40 percent of Turkish electors will vote for Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), a conservative movement with roots in political Islam.

"In recent years, the AKP has proved its capability of developing Turkish economy and limiting the social disparity," a young woman with headscarf told Xinhua, adding that "I hope the ruling party will remain the biggest party."

Some local analysts said the AKP's focus on stabilizing the economy and building an attractive European Union agenda has reaped benefits. The party's remarkable achievements in economy draw it many loyal supporters.

Meanwhile, the Republican People's Party (CHP), Turkey's major opposition party, is popular among the middle-class and intellectual segment and likely to emerge as a runner-up.

College student Ege Saygil told Xinhua that he will vote for the CHP. The 18-year-old said that he believes the secular party will work to the best of the country.

Despite his support for the CHP, Recep Cil, a 66-year-old retiree, expected that the AKP would remain the biggest party in the 550-member new Grand National Assembly(parliament), but "it will have to form a coalition instead of a single-party government. "

The AKP currently has 352 members in the 550-seat parliament, but as the number of parties contesting the polls has increased, the party is not expected to gain more seats in the parliament even if it wins more votes.

Headed by Devlet Bahceli, the right-wing Nationalist Movement Party(MHP) also appears poised to enter the parliament. The MHP accuses the government of being too soft on separatist Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK).

Kubra Ding, 18, said that she would vote for the MHP because she thought the party is honest and believable, compared with the others.

In Ankara, more than 2.9 million voters will cast their ballots for 29 candidates, while in Istanbul, Turkey's largest city and major commercial hub, 7.4 million voters will decide 70 seats, the largest number in the country.

Media reports said more than a quarter of the country's registered voters travelled across the country over the past days to return to their voting districts to cast votes.

Voting will end at 5:00 p.m. local time (1400 GMT) on Sunday except for 32 eastern and southeastern cities, where voting occurs between 7:00 a.m. (0400 GMT) and 4:00 p.m. (1300 GMT).

The results will begin to be broadcast by 9.00 p.m. (0600 GMT) but the Supreme Election Board (YSK) can take it one hour earlier.

The elections were scheduled to be held on Nov. 4 but were brought forward almost four months because of the failure to elect a new president after the CHP boycotted the presidential election in late April and early May.

Source: Xinhua

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