Europe

Turks vote in key election as Erdogan seeks big majority

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Media captionThe BBC's Mark Lowen says there are "very glum faces" at the AKP's Istanbul headquarters

Turkey has voted in a general election which will determine whether the ruling party can change the constitution.

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who first came to power as prime minister in 2003, is seeking a big enough majority to turn Turkey into a presidential republic.

However his hopes may be scuppered if the pro-Kurdish HDP crosses the 10% threshold and enters parliament.

Explosions at its election rally in Diyarbakir on Friday killed four.

Officials said the blasts were caused by improvised bombs.

HDP co-chair Selahattin Demirtas criticised Mr Erdogan's response to the killings.

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Image caption Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu's (C) AK party is facing its biggest challenge
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Image caption Mr Demirtas is hoping his party can help challenge the ruling AKP
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Image caption Voter turnout has been high in many provinces

Casting his vote on Sunday Mr Demirtas commented: "The election campaigning process was not a fair and equal race."

However he added: "Hopefully we will wake up to a new and freer Turkey on 8 June."

Polls across Turkey's 81 provinces opened at 08:00 (05:00 GMT) local time and closed at 17:00 (14:00 GMT). First results are expected late on Sunday.

If the left-wing HDP succeeds in winning seats in parliament for the first time, it would reduce the number of seats won by Mr Erdogan's AKP, thwarting its plans to change the constitution and transfer the prime minister's executive powers to the president.

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Media captionMark Lowen has taken a road trip to gauge the pre-election mood in different parts of Turkey - here are some of his highlights

A strong showing from the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) and the third-placed Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) could even force the AKP into a coalition, correspondents say.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, chairman of the CHP echoed Mr Dermirtas and called the campaign period "unequal". He promised however to "continue to work with a sense of responsibility".

Turkey's current Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu shied away from accusations of unfairness telling reporters: "Whatever [the people's] will, it is a will that must be respected by everyone.''

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Image caption Mr Erdogan served as prime minister until he won the presidential election last year

The BBC's Mark Lowen in Istanbul says Sunday's election is the biggest electoral challenge for the AKP since it came to power 13 years ago.

Growth has stalled, he says, critics talk of an authoritarian President Erdogan who has eroded free speech and burnt bridges with the West - and they are desperate for change.

The result may have ramifications beyond Turkey's borders.

The country is a vital Nato member in a volatile Middle East and a rare mix of Islam and democracy, our correspondent notes.