World Bulletin / News Desk
More than 53 million Turkish voters head to the polls on Sunday in perhaps the country’s most eagerly awaited general election in a decade.
The vote will see 550 deputies from among 20 political parties and 165 independent candidates elected to the Turkish Grand National Assembly, representing 85 constituencies in 81 provinces for a four-year term.
Turnout is expected to be high. The 2011 general election saw 84 percent of the electorate vote.
Turkey elects its parliamentary representatives through a closed list system of proportional representation that sees a set number of candidates elected per district. In all but three cases a district corresponds to a province - only in Istanbul, Ankara and Izmir provinces are there multiple districts.
Under this system, a political party must achieve a nationwide 10 percent threshold to achieve a single parliamentary seat - the highest threshold among the world’s democracies. Votes for any party that fails to achieve the threshold are distributed among the parties that pass the ten percent mark within the constituencies the unsuccessful party stood.
This means a party can secure a highest number of votes in one province but fail to actually gain any seats in the assembly because of a poor performance elsewhere.
The system, introduced following the 1980 military coup, works in favor of large parties but counts against smaller groups, meaning many smaller parties opt for their candidates to stand as independents and then “join” the party if they succeed in getting elected.
This year, the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP) has mustered the confidence to stand as a party for the first time and its chances of securing ten percent have perhaps been the most hotly debated topic of the campaign.
If the party fails to achieve the target, which would translate into 50 to 60 seats, its votes will be redistributed among the other parties. The ruling Justice and Development (AK) Party, as the party expected to gather the largest number of votes and as the only one of the three main parties to have a presence in the HDP's eastern and southeastern strongholds, will receive the lion’s share.
The extra votes will not just bolster the AK Party's chances of achieving a 276 majority but will also see it on the way to achieving the constitutional changes it wants to introduce after the election, namely changing Turkey from a parliamentary to presidential system.
To achieve this without resorting to a further plebiscite, the party needs 367 seats. If it reaches 330, it can put the proposed change to a referendum but below this the party’s goal of a presidential system seems doomed.
According to the Supreme Election Council, a total of 53,714,838 domestic voters are eligible to vote - around 27.5 million women and 26.5 million men - in Turkey’s 25th general election.
The 174,240 polling stations open at 8.00 a.m. local time (0600 GMT) and close at 5.00 p.m. (1500 GMT). According to the Foreign MInistry, 1,031,917 Turks - nearly a 36 percent turnout - voted abroad at 122 embassies and consulates, which closed on Sunday. The votes from 33 ballot stations at airports and border crossings will be collected when the polls close on Sunday.
Voters select a party rather than a candidate, with the parties deciding the order in which their candidates are elected under the closed list system. This means the parties try to put forward as many candidates as there are number of seats in a voting district.
The election will be overseen by observers from civil society groups and political parties as well as international monitors from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council of Europe.
Among Turkey’s 81 provinces, Istanbul sends the greatest number of lawmakers to parliament – 88 deputies from three districts - due to its huge population. Sparsely populated Konya, the province covering the largest geographical area, sends just 14 deputies.
Of the 20 parties registered to contest Sunday's election, the polls suggest four could pass the 10 percent threshold.
The AK Party, which has been in government since 2002, the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) are expected to easily qualify to take parliamentary seats while the HDP's chances hang in the balance.
The Justice and Development (AK) Party: Led by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, the party is looking to retain its dominance in parliament and increase its seats from 311 to 330 or even 367 - the levels needed to hope to usher in a presidential system under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The party won more than 49 percent of the vote in the 2011 general election and their candidate won 52 percent in the presidential election last August.
The party, which has based much of its popularity on its economic record and an appeal to traditional Muslim values, counts central Anatolia as its stronghold, as well as key provinces such as Istanbul and Ankara.
Republican People’s Party (CHP): The left-wing main opposition party, established by Turkey’s founder Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, is looking for a significant boost from the 2011 election when it received nearly 26 percent of the vote.
Leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has ruled out forming a coalition government with the AK Party if no single party achieves a parliamentary majority.
Its campaign has focused on reforming the economy, education, the judiciary and politics. The party’s strongholds include the coastal provinces of Izmir and Antalya.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP): Headed by Devlet Bahceli, the nationalists have pledged to secure better conditions for public sector workers and pensioners as well as to fight corruption and lift parliamentary immunity.
The party has also said it would reverse the “solution process” initiated by the AK Party to end the Kurdish conflict and take a tough stance on terrorism and defeat Kurdish separatists.
The MHP receives the bulk of its support from central Anatolia, where it has usually come second to the AK Party in conservative provinces. The party secured 13 percent of votes four years ago.
The CHP and MHP fielded a joint candidate in the presidential election who came second with 38 percent.
Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP): The party, which has added to its traditional Kurdish base an appeal to left-wing progressives, already has a number of deputies who stood as independents in the 2011 election.
Led by Selahattin Demirtas, the party’s 10 percent goal has been the talk of the election campaign and would give it up to 60 seats in the assembly. Demirtas received just under 10 percent of the vote in last year’s presidential election.
The party has also been heavily linked to the solution process to resolve Turkey’s three-decade Kurdish conflict and there are concerns its failure to get into the assembly could endanger the process, although Erdogan has said there is no link between the election results and the process.
The party is strongest in Turkey’s eastern and southeastern provinces and hopes to win leftist votes in the provinces. Their list of candidates, which runs from conservative Muslim candidates to gay contenders, have been criticized by the AK Party for inconsistency.Güncelleme Tarihi: 07 Haziran 2015, 19:54