Thursday 8 December 2016

Pivotal election in Turkey could birth new authoritarian regime

Published 07/06/2015 | 15:39

Turkey is holding a crucial parliamentary election that will determine whether the constitution can be rewritten to bolster the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

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Mr Erdogan himself was not on the ballot but the election is still effectively a referendum on whether to endow his office with extraordinary powers that would significantly change Turkey's democracy and prolong his reign as the country's most powerful politician.

His ruling Justice and Development Party, the AKP, is expected to win significantly more votes than any opposition party but it must win a super majority of the 550 seats in parliament to change the constitution.

If the party captures 367 seats, it could vote in a change without a referendum.

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All eyes will be on the results for the main Kurdish party, HDP. If it crosses a 10 pc threshold for entering parliament as a party, that would extinguish AKP's constitutional plans.

The vote comes amid high tensions following bombings on Friday during a HDP rally that killed two people and injured scores. Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu said a suspect has been detained in the case.

More than 53 million voters in Turkey and abroad are eligible to choose the deputies to the Grand National Assembly.

After casting his vote, HDP leader Selahattin Demirtas called for peace after what he saw as an "onerous and a troubled campaign".

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Aside from the constitutional issues, the election could have a major impact on the peace process to end decades of insurgency by Kurdish militants in Turkey.

Scuffles between rival party supporters were reported in at least two provinces today, including one in Sanliurfa which injured 15 people.

Mr Erdogan has been Turkey's dominant politician since his party swept into power in 2002 - becoming prime minister in 2003 and leading his party to two overwhelming parliamentary election victories.

In a gamble, last year he decided to run for president, banking that his party could later bolster his powers.

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Under the current constitution, Mr Erdogan is meant to stay above the political fray as president. But he has been campaigning vociferously, drawing complaints from the opposition that he is ignoring the constitution.

As he cast his vote today, Mr Erdogan praised the election as an indication of the strength of democracy in Turkey.

"This strong democracy will be confirmed with the will of our people and extend the trust we have in our future," he said.

Press Association

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