06/06/2015, 00.00
TURKEY
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Turkey’s election amid the uncertainty of the Kurdish vote and Erdoğan neo-Ottoman dream

by NAT da Polis
Tensions are running high in an election that saw a possible bomb attack in the Kurdish region with 4 dead and 100 wounded during the closing speech of the Kurdish party leader. Despite his required impartiality, Turkey’s president led a campaign in favour of his own party. At least 330 seats are needed to change the constitution and make Turkey a presidential republic.

Istanbul (AsiaNews) – Turks go to the polls tomorrow in what is the most important election in the history of the Turkish republic. Tensions are running high. Yesterday’s incident in Diyarbakir saw at least four people killed and 100 seriously wounded in a blast, possibly a bomb, just before Selahattin Demirtaş (pictured right), leader of the predominantly Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (Halkların Demokratik Partisi or HDP), gave his final speech.

Some 57 million Turkish voters will be eligible to cast their ballot tomorrow. However, they will not only choose which party will govern the country but also what type of system Turkey will have. A vote for the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (pictured left) will be a vote for the transformation of Turkey into a presidential republic, based on an authoritarian model of the state, inspired by a neo-Ottoman ideology and a certain Islamic culture and civilisation.

In an effort to realise his dream, and to be the first president of a constitutionally new Turkey, Erdoğan took part in the election campaign in favour of his AKP party, relying on his proven charisma and deep pockets, against the relatively uninspiring leaders of the other main parties, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu of the secular-oriented Republican People's Party (Cumhuriyet Halk Partisi, CHP) and Devlet Bahçeli of the Nationalist Movement Party (Milliyetçi Hareket Partisi, MHP).

Unlike other parliamentary democracies, Erdoğan threw himself into the election campaign, violating the principle of impartiality attached to the presidency as required by the Turkish constitution.

The Kurdish party fascinates young people

For the AKP, the magic number is 330. That is the number of Members of Parliament it needs for a constitutional referendum since it is unlikely to get 367 MPs, the number needed for a direct change to the constitution by parliament.

According to Turkish analysts, the latter could happen only if the Kurdish party, the HDP, fails to get the 10 per cent of the vote necessary to enter parliament. If it does get in, it would deny the AKP many seats, since the latest surveys give the AKP 40-42 per cent of the vote, followed by the CHP at 26 per cent, the MHP at 19 per cent, and the HDP at 10.50 per cent.

Hence, the HDP is the greatest threat to Tayyip Erdoğan ’s aspirations. A Kurdish party led by its charismatic leader Selahattin Demirtaş has managed to make inroads among young voters who might have otherwise voted for the AKP or the CHP and in some sectors of Turkish society that do not take kindly to Erdoğan ’s authoritarian neo-Ottoman changes.

For this reason, President Erdoğan turned to Turkey’s secular and religious nationalism, to stop the division of the vote. This is especially important since Turkish society remains strongly anti-Kurdish, the legacy of the days when many Turks died during the insurgency in the country’s predominantly Kurdish southeastern provinces.

In light of this, diplomats in Istanbul have been discussing the interesting views expressed by Prof Aysen Candaş, from Bogazici University. For the latter, the results of these elections will be highly questionable given the government’s lavish use of public resources and unfair access to the media with many ordinary Turks concerned about vote rigging. In her view, "Turkey is heading towards a period of great uncertainty".

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