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Turks go to the polls

  |   June 12, 2011 at 7:51 AM
ISTANBUL, Turkey, June 12 (UPI) -- Casting his vote in Istanbul Sunday, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan said it is time for the Turkish people to decide who will be the next leader.

"The whole election process is going well and the atmosphere is healthy. Now it is the time for the public to speak. They will make a decision. I believe that our people will enjoy higher freedom," the Chinese news agency Xinhua quoted Erdogan saying.

Erdogan's Justice and Development Party, AKP, is seeking a third term and is said to be the most likely to win, CNN reported.

More than 50 million Turks are expected to cast their ballots during the day to elect a new Parliament, Xinhua reported.

A total of 15 political parties with 7,492 candidates and 2034 independent candidates are vying for one of 550 seats in Parliament, the agency said. Polling stations will close at 4 p.m. and initial results are expected to be announced Sunday night, Xinhua said.

If Erdogan's party succeeds in gaining 367 of the 550 seats, it would allow him to rewrite Turkey's constitution without requiring a referendum, CNN said.

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