Middle East

Vote for AKP a ballot for 'return of peace': Turkey PM

Turkish Prime Minister and Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Ahmet Davutoglu delivers a speech during the introductory meeting of AKP candidates for the upcoming general election at Ankara Sports Hall on September 21, 2015. AFP PHOTO / ADEM ALTAN

ISTANBUL: Turkey's prime minister urged voters Monday to back the ruling party in November polls "so that peace returns to Turkey," where the army is engaged in a bloody battle with Kurdish militants.

Ahmet Davutoglu sought to rally the faithful at a mass gathering of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) in Ankara with a rousing speech to present the party's candidates in snap November 1 polls.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called the election after his AKP party lost its governing majority for the first time in June 7 elections, forcing it into coalition talks that ended in failure.

"No one will dare threaten our country's peace when the AKP cadres are in power again, nor will they dare betray the legacy of our martyrs," said Davutoglu, referring to the scores of security force members killed in attacks blamed on the separatist Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) since July.

"We will continue this fight until all the terrorists have been flushed out of our mountains and peace returns to our country," he said, calling on all parties in parliament to stand "shoulder to shoulder" against terrorism.

The AKP won three decisive general election victories in 2002, 2007 and 2011 but was stripped of its overall majority in June after losing support to a pro-Kurdish party.

The result wrecked Erdogan's dreams of creating a powerful U.S.-style presidency with full executive powers.

Less than two months later, after a suicide bombing in a southern Turkish town blamed on ISIS, the government launched a "war on terror," which has mainly targeted the PKK in southeast Turkey and across the border in northern Iraq.

The PKK has hit back hard against a barrage of airstrikes on its bases, killing scores of soldiers and police in a string of bombings and shootings that have triggered reprisal attacks by Erdogan supporters against Kurdish parties and businesses in other regions.

At an anti-terrorism rally attended by more than 100,000 people in Istanbul Sunday, Erdogan appealed to voters to "send 550 national deputies to [the 550-seat] parliament" in November.

"I think you understand what I mean, don't you? Everything will be easy then..." he said.

His reference to "national" deputies was interpreted as a swipe at the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which he accuses of being a front for the PKK.

The HDP for its part accuses Erdogan of fomenting the latest escalation in a three-decade conflict with the PKK to boost the AKP's standing among nationalists -- accusations the government denies.

Following the breakdown of coalition talks during the summer, Davutoglu was tasked with forming an interim government to run the country until the next election. The provisional cabinet comprises a number of opposition politicians.

Analysts have expressed doubts over the likelihood of the November vote producing a significantly different result from the June election.

On Monday, a survey by Gezici polling company showed support for the AKP had slipped by 1.6 points since June, dropping from 40.9 to 39.3 percent, raising doubts over the party's chances of forming a single-party government.

 

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