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[ISTANBUL] Turkey's Justice and Development Party (AKP) was celebrating "victory day" on Sunday but many greeted the surprise result with dismay - and deep disquiet about what may be ahead for the restive country.
Violence also erupted briefly in the main Kurdish city of Diyarbakir after it became clear that the AKP had clawed back the parliamentary majority it lost in another election just five months ago.
Analysts say the decisive result may give the AKP and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan a clear mandate to pursue its military campaign against Kurdish rebels and what critics say are increasingly authoritarian policies.
"I'm horrified. I don't want to live in this country anymore because I don't know what is awaiting us," said Guner Soganci, 26, a waitress in Istanbul's upmarket Nisantasi district.
"We missed our only chance to end Erdogan's dictatorship," she told AFP.
"Shame on those who voted for a party that turned our country into a big mess," added Alphan Ozbalta, 32, an advertising agency manager.
The majority-Muslim country is more polarised now than ever before along ethnic, political and religious lines, tensions exacerbated by the renewed Kurdish conflict and a wave of bloody attacks blamed on Islamic State jihadists.
But the AKP, which has dominated Turkish politics for 13 years, is on track to win around 50 per cent of the vote, enough to take around 315 seats in the 550-member parliament and return to single-party rule.
'EXPECTING THE WORST'
The results were a surprise as almost all opinion polls had tipped a repeat of the June vote when the AKP won only 258 seats and then failed in weeks of negotiations to form a coalition government.
"I don't want to believe in these results. They must have cheated because there is a big difference between what the opinion polls suggested and what we got today," said Meryem Bahar, a banker, as she stood nervously puffing a cigarette.
"We are expecting the worst." But among AKP supporters, there was only delight.
"Recep Tayyip Erdogan has become not only a European leader, but also a world leader. We believe in him, we trust him and with the help of God, he can achieve anything," said Yasin Aktay as he joined boisterous celebrations near AKP headquarters in Istanbul.
"I'm so happy because we have won. My heart beats for the AKP! Until the end!" he said to the cacophony of blaring car horns.
"We won tonight, because they (the AKP) didn't leave the blood of martyrs on the ground," said high-school student Beyza as she danced with her friends, referring to Turkey's military response to attacks by PKK rebels on security forces earlier this year.
In the Kurdish "capital" of Diyarbakir in southeastern Turkey, police fired tear gas and water cannon on Kurdish youths who set tyres ablaze in protest at the AKP win.
The clashes erupted outside the headquarters of the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP), which in June became the first movement representing Turkey's biggest minority in parliament.
It was touch and go on Sunday, when the HDP saw its vote slide to just over the 10-per cent hurdle, barely enough to scrape into parliament again.
Demonstrators in Diyarbakir warned of an "apocalypse" and "war" if the HDP had failed to meet the threshold.