People get to vote for a new President today


The first Presidential election where the candidate will be directly elected by the people takes place today in Turkey. In the previous twelve elections the President had been elected by members of the Grand National Assembly (parliament).

There are three candidates standing but all commentators expect the current Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) to be elected in the first round. Should this not happen then a second round runoff will be held on 24th August.

The three candidates are:

• Selahattin Demirtaş; People’s Democratic Party (HDP) and eight other small parties
• Recep Tayyip Erdoğan; Justice and Development Party (AKP) and one other small party
• Ekmeleddin İhsanoğlu; Republican People’s Party (CHP), Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and twelve other small parties.

There are 52,894,115 registered voters and they will be voting at 165,108 ballot boxes across the country. Polling stations will be open from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. local time. Preliminary results are expected on 11th August with full results on 15th August.

Incumbent President Abdullah Gül’s term of office terminates on 28th August. Recep Tayyip Erdoğan remains as Prime Minister until and if he is elected President. He has sworn to act as an Executive President even though the office is largely ceremonial. Erdoğan and the AK Party has been trying to change the Constitution to, amongst other things, turn the President’s position into an Executive role but has not been able to gather the two thirds majority needed in parliament.

Instead he expects to place a ‘puppet’ Prime Minister into office in a mirror of the way that Vladimir Putin of the Russian Federation did when he was forced to give up the Presidency after serving two terms, became Prime Minister and put into the Presidency Dmitry Medvedev for a single term. The alternative, assuming Erdoğan gets at least 55% of the vote, is to call an early general election and hope that the AK Party can get at least two thirds of its candidates elected. Currently the AK Party has 313 of the 550 seats in the Grand National Assembly. They need at least 366 votes to force through constitutional changes.

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