Less than six months after the last election, Turkey goes to polls and Raziye Akkoc explains why these polls matter Turkey returns to the polls on Sunday in the second general election this year in a nation more divided and on the brink of a full-blown civil war.
Just a few months after a political stalemate in June when no party won an overall majority, Turkish citizens have another chance to deliver their verdict on the government and Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Turkish president.
The country suffered its worst terror attack just a few weeks ago with more than 100 people killed and hundreds more during a peace rally.
And in July, 33 mainly Kurdish activists were killed as they prepared to make their way to help rebuild Kobane after the town’s success over Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil).
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The first Isil-linked terror attack in Turkey’s south near the Syrian border led to a sequence of events including the collapse of the fragile ceasefire between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
Amidst this tension and polarisation, voting will begin on Sunday morning at 4am GMT and will end at 2pm GMT.
Who are the political parties?
Since 2002, Turkey has been ruled by the Justice and Development Party (AKP), led by prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu, and the main opposition party has been the Republican People’s Party (CHP), led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu.
Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu takes a selfie with his supporters during an election rally of his AK Party in the central Anatolian city of Konya
Turkish prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu at an election rally of his AK Party in the central Anatolian city of Konya Photo: Reuters
Both the far-Right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) are Turkey’s equal third parties.
HDP achieved unprecedented success in June when it was the first party of its kind to pass Turkey’s difficult 10 per cent threshold and won 80 seats. The chart below shows the breakdown of seats after June 7.
The Turkish election results (June 7) and how many seats each party won
Number of seats
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Why is there a second election?
On June 7, no political party won an overall majority to lead the government. For the first time since 2001, AKP was not given a mandate to rule alone and many of the seats it lost were won by HDP.
During the week starting June 8, AKP began discussions with CHP as well as HDP and MHP but within a couple of weeks, it was clear that the next step was another snap election in the autumn.
MHP turned down the request to form a coalition with the ruling party led by Ahmet Davutoglu. At the time, the party’s leader said that MHP’s conditions for coalition had not been met.
Meanwhile, it refused to join a coalition with CHP and HDP. The far-Right nationalists are strongly opposed to the Kurdish peace process, set up to end the decades-long conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) during which tens of thousands of people were killed.
Despite meeting with Figen Yuksekdag and Selahattin Demirtas, co-chairmen of HDP, Mr Davutoglu could not forge a deal to form a coalition.
So, what are Turkish citizens voting for?
Over 54 million people, out of 78 million in total, are going to polls to vote for MPs in 550 seats in the grand national assembly through proportional representation. To win a majority, 276 seats are needed. AKP won 258 in June.
There are 86 constituences in total and to win a seat within a party, collectively, it must win at least 10 per cent of the overall vote to have any representation in parliament.
Ahead of the last election, there were worries among some HDP would be thwarted in its attempts to enter parliament but it won 13 per cent of the vote in June.
Nearly three million Turkish citizens can vote abroad and this time round, the Turkish government has said there has been greater participation than in the last election and the one before in 2011.
During this election, there has been less discussion about Mr Erdogan seeking to change the constitution. Of course, it is not likely that this is a dream some in AKP and Mr Erdogan have forgotten.
But for Mr Erdogan to become, officially, an executive president, he needs either 367 to change it without a referendum or 330 to then call a referendum to ask the people: do they want a presidential system?
Who do the polls say will win?
The majority of polls suggest that there will be another hung parliament with AKP still the most popular party but not winning enough seats for majority rule.
According to AKP’s own polling this week put it on 43.7 per cent of the vote means a majority could be within reach. A poll released on Thursday suggested AKP had been the recipient of a late surge and pollster Adil Gur could take as much as 47.2 per cent, Reuters reported.
According to JamesinTurkey.com, a blog which covers Turkey and elections extensively, an average of the polls on October 26, AKP will win 41.7 per cent of the vote, only 0.8 per cent more than in June.
According to an average of polls, AKP will not win a majority of seats in the assembly
Predicted share of vote (%)
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Why does it matter?
It may be a cliche but Turkey literally and politically straddles the east and west. It is an EU accession candidate and currently is much needed for help to solve the migration crisis, while in terms of the east, it was often hailed as an example of a successful Sunni Muslim democracy.
Its stability is important for Turkish citizens, be it Kurdish, Turkish, Alevi and others, but it is also an important ally on issues such as the Syrian crisis and the fight against Isil.
After the Suruc attack, Ankara joined the US-led coalition bombing Isil in Syria and allowed Washington to use its Incirlik air base in the country.
It has continued to call for the removal of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president, and supports the rebels fighting in the country. This means that Syria will be a key issue on which there could be change. Would the rumours of alleged support for some rebels end?
The election also matters for the future of the Kurdish peace process. Hailed as a moment that ended a long-running insurgency, a fragile ceasefire collapsed in July after Suruc and now there continue to be clashes daily between PKK and the Turkish state. The latters says 160 of its soldiers and other security officials have been killed as well as hundreds of PKK fighters.
Many hope that if AKP do not win a majority, a CHP-AKP coalition will see the return of talks to end the fighting. It is important to remember that AKP was in charge of the government which gave Kurds greater rights and began the peace process.
On the migration crisis, the country has welcomed more than two million refugees, some of which have fled to Europe seeking asylum. This means that the crisis must be solved with the support of Ankara with policies and funding decided on between the EU and Turkey.
What does it mean for Erdogan?
If the AKP win 276 seats, this will mean that Mr Erdogan’s assumed control and say over AKP and the government will continue. In fact, it is likely he will emboldened, knowing that he has been able to win more votes back to the party.
But if there is a coalition, it will mean a limit to his power – or so, his opponents hope. Many assume that a coalition government would mean he has less say and is a less dominant figure on the scene. That would be difficult since he will be president until 2019.
Since 2001, he has been Turkey’s most prominent politician, and for all his criticisms, there are many areas where he brought great improvement. Until July, he was praised for the moves towards peace with PKK and was often lauded for the country’s phenomenal economic growth in the noughties.
Now both have come to a crashing end with the lira weaker than it has been in a while, Mr Erdogan’s position as strongman is at risk. And for many, so is Turkish democracy.