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Report: Turkey

Divided Turks hope for peace, stability after this week's general election

Herdem is a member of the Zaza Kurd ethnic group and Abdullah is a Kurd: “we’re going to vote for democracy, peace and humanity,”
Herdem is a member of the Zaza Kurd ethnic group and Abdullah is a Kurd: “we’re going to vote for democracy, peace and humanity,” Tony Cross/RFI

Turkey is to go to the polls for the second time this year on Sunday, following the failure of President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) to form a government. Since the last election in June, violence has flared up following the breaking off of peace talks with Kurdish separatist PKK and the Islamic State armed group (IS) has bombed two peace rallies and fought with police.

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On the busy streets of Istanbul's Osmanbey district what you think of the state of Turkey today depends on your party affiliation.

Zuleyha, a middle-aged woman accompanied by her teenage daughter, dismisses opposition claims that Erdogan is an Islamist authoritatian.

“I’m fine," she exclaims. "He does nothing to restrict me so I’m very good about it. He doesn’t force me to wear headscarves, for example … Everything is OK for me. No problems.”

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Ali, a young man sipping tea with his friends at a pavement café table, thinks Turkey is in fine shape and the rise in violence doesn’t worry him.

"There have always been terrorist attacks," he says. "They’re nothing new and I think of them as normal.”

That's not the view of a young couple, Herdem and Abdullah ... she a member of the Zaza Kurd ethnic group, he a Kurd.

They will vote for the left-wing pro-Kurd People's Democratic Party (HDP).

“We’re going to vote for democracy, peace and humanity,” proclaims Herdem enthusiastically.

They blame Erdogan for the flare-up in violence since last June’s election.

“People in Kurdistan still want peace, despite the fact that their children are being killed," he says, referring to the Kurdish-majority east of Turkey by a name that the Turkish state does not accept . "We’re stalled and we don’t know why the international community remains silent about what’s happening in the country.

Abdullah believes the HDP should refuse to support the AKP if it is in a position to form a government after Sunday’s election but Herden believes they could join a coalition so as to provide a check “so they can’t do whatever they want”, accusing Erdogan's party of corruption and repression of its opponents.

But what both want most is an end to the violence.

“I have seven family members who have joined the guerrillas," Abdullah explains. "Eighteen have been murdered, we don’t know what’s become of them. I have a wound in my leg because in that region we get hurt. My mother was injured during the fighting in the 90s. But still I call for peace.”

Nihot, a middle-aged businessman, wants the secular nationalist CHP to form the next government.

He doesn’t have a high opinion of the HDP.

“We’ve been going through tough times," he comments. "Lots of people are dying. And what did the HDP do? It did nothing. In a way PKK is in parliament at the moment.”

But, although the CHP has been tough on Kurdish separatism, or even autonomy, in the past, he does want peace negotiations to start again.

“I believe that lots of PKK militants want to come to Turkey and live in peace. So we want peace and we can do it by negotiation. I believe that.”

Students at Bogazici Unversity, most of whom are not old enough to vote, do not seem to have high hopes of the election result.

"It will be just the same as the previous one," said Ozgur, as she sat in the sun on the grassy campus overlooking the Bosphorus on Monday. "Nothing will change at all. Maybe a couple of percentages might change, like AKP's percentage might be lower, maybe, and it would reflect itself in an increase in CHP's or maybe HDP's percentages but other than that I don't think anything will change at all."

Judging it unlikely that the AKP will be deprived of power, she would at least like to see a functioning government to "bring an end to all this social turmoil in Turkey right now, so that all these bombings and stuff would end".

Whether their priority is peace or prosperity, all Turks know they face an uncertain future.

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