Turkey ruling Justice and Development Party scored a big victory in Sunday's parliamentary election, according to the state-run Anatolia news agency. With most of the votes counted, the agency said the Islamic-rooted party won 331 seats in the 550-member legislature. For VOA news Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul.

Supporters of the ruling Justice and Development Party, celebrated their victory early. With more than 95 percent of the votes counted, the party of Prime Minister Reecep Tayyip Erdogan won almost three times as many seats as its nearest rival, the secular Republican Peoples' Party, which won 111 seats. The Nationalist Action Party won 70 seats and independents 27 seats.

Turnout at the polls was seen by observers as heavy and there were no irregularities or violence reported.

After casting his vote, Mr. Erdogan appealed for national unity and said the election will strengthen democracy in Turkey.

One of the first challenges the new parliament faces is the election of Turkey's president. Last May, Mr. Erdogan withdrew the nomination of Foreign Minister Abdullah Gul, a devout Muslim, after the opposition claimed this amounted to an Islamic takeover of the government, and the military threatened to intervene.

Political scientist Murat Ciftkaya of Yeditepe University says many voters sided with the prime minister in the Gul affair.

"Turkish people tend to vote for the people who are victimized and I think that Recep Tayyip Erdogan success party depended on this," he said.

The prime minister's success in Sunday's election was also seen as voter endorsement of the government's economic policies which have helped to produce four years of record growth.

While the prime minister has scored a major victory, he has failed to secure a two thirds majority in parliament. That means he needs the support of another party to elect the president.

Parliament has to elect the president within 30 days of convening, otherwise another election is automatically held.