Turkish voters decide the future of their country today


President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is hoping that voters will give his Justice and Development Party (AKP) enough seats to change the constitution to bring in an Executive Presidency today. Many people opposed to the President fear that if the AKP get enough seats to call a referendum then they will end up with a dictatorship. That then is the extent of the battle for the 550 seats that are up for grabs today in the Grand National Assembly of Turkey.

In the 2011 general election the AKP won 327 seats with 49.83% of the vote. Today they are somewhere between 38% and 41% down on the local elections last year when they took 45.56% of the vote. However, pollsters have been wrong before in Turkey and do seem to underestimate the AKP vote especially in the rural areas.

Because of the vagaries of the electoral system in Turkey each party has to cross a 10% threshold; but that threshold does not apply to individual candidates. That is why in the past Kurdish candidates have stood as independents and then formed a parliamentary block after the election. That is changing in this election with the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and their new young leaders, Selahattin Demirtaş (42) and Figen Yüksekdağ (44) standing as a national party and seemingly on the cusp of more than 10% of the vote. The party, a left wing secular party with Kurdish ties, has put forward a liberal manifesto promoting women and minorities. If the HDP get across the 10% threshold they will take 50 – 60 seats and will stop the AKP from winning enough seats to change the constitution. But if the HDP fall short then they get no seats and those 50 – 60 seats will go to the AKP; another reason why this is a high stakes campaign. Opinion polls were suggesting that the HDP were on around 10.4% of the vote.

If the opinion polls are to be believed then the main opposition centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP) will win 151 seats where in 2011 they won 135 seats. In that election they took 25.98% of the vote where this time the polls suggest that they will get somewhere around 26%/28% of the vote. The CHP has changed its stance in this election; rather than attacking Erdoğan they have put in place a manifesto that focuses on the economy.

The other opposition party, the right-wing Nationalist Action Party (MHP) is on 18.1% of the vote, according to the opinion polls, and 104 seats, up from 13.01% and 53 seats in 2011.

Voting overseas started on 8th May and finished on 31st May across 54 countries and 112 polling stations. There are 2,866,940 Turkish citizens living overseas.

There are a further 53,741,883 registered voters in Turkey itself and they will be choosing from 20 parties and 9,861 candidates (including 165 independents). There are 174,240 Ballot Box Committees (roughly equivalent to a polling station) covered by 1,436 District Electoral Boards. Polling stations will be open between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. local time, although anyone queuing at 5 p.m. will be allowed to vote.

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