People in Turkey have started voting in important parliamentary elections, the results of which will determine whether or not President Recep Tayyip Erdogan can fulfill his ambitions for taking full control of the executive powers constitutionally in the hands of the country’s prime minister.
Erdogan, who was elected president in August 2014 after over 11 years of serving as prime minister, now feels confident that he can transform Turkey into a presidential republic.
To achieve this, the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) hopes to secure a super-majority of parliamentary seats to easily push for constitutional changes to increase the powers of the president, who holds a largely ceremonial role under the current constitution.
The AKP currently holds 327 out of the 550 parliamentary seats. If it can raise the number of the parliament seats to 330, it would be able to authorize a referendum on the constitution. If it gains a super-majority of 367 seats (two-thirds of the parliament), the AKP could simply make the changes it wants without popular vote.
However, opposition parties fear that the constitutional changes would increase what they describe as the president’s authoritarian tendencies.
Expressing dissatisfaction with the performance of the AKP, Ekrem Dumanli, who is the editor-in-chief of Zaman daily, told Press TV, “The AKP has failed on its election promises of 2002. The erosion of a political party takes time. It doesn’t happen overnight.”
A serious threat to the AKP’s expansion of its 12-year monopoly over political power in Turkey might be the left-wing People’s Democratic Party (HDP), which has run an energetic campaign across the country trying to pass Turkey’s 10-percent threshold for parliament. If it succeeds to get the minimum percentage of the parliament’s seats, it could effectively obstruct the AKP’s plan to change the constitution.
The HDP campaign has been met with acts of violence.
Earlier this week, gunmen attacked a campaign vehicle in the Kurdish-majority province of Bingol in southeastern Turkey. One person was killed during the raid. On Friday, bomb attacks on a pro-Kurdish campaign rally Diyarbakir, also in southeastern Turkey, left three fatalities and 30 more injured.