Turkey to hold parliamentary elections on Sunday

09:03, June 13, 2011      

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More than 50 million Turks will go to polls on Sunday to elect 550 parliament members, with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) expected to win a third consecutive term in office.

Eastern Turkish provinces will conduct the voting from 7 a.m. ( 0400 GMT) to 4 p.m. (1300 GMT), while the western provinces will vote from 8 a.m. (0500 GMT) to 5 p.m. (1400 GMT).

The AKP is craving for more than 367 seats in the parliament, a two-third majority needed to single-handedly push through a new constitution intended by the party's leader, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

To soothe concerns over a lack of compromise resulting from an overwhelming vote for the AKP, Erdogan said Friday that his party will seek political consultations with the opposition even it has a parliamentary majority.

"We will look for conciliation (on new constitution) if we can get more than 367 seats. We'll even look for ways to set up a reconciliation commission. We'll meet with civil society organizations. We can even meet with parties which receive only more than 1 percent of votes and are excluded from the parliament, " Erdogan told NTV news channel in an interview on Friday night.

Fifteen political parties are running in the elections with 7, 492 candidates, apart from 203 independent candidates.

Latest opinion polls showed the AKP was heading toward a comfortable lead of 42 percent to 48 percent of votes. The main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) was expected to get 25 percent to 30 percent of votes.

The second biggest opposition party Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) got 11 percent to 13 percent of votes in the opinion polls, just above the 10-percent threshold for the parliamentary representation.

If the MHP can not surpass the threshold, one of the world's highest, the AKP is likely to dominate the parliament and press for a constitution that allows a presidential system instead of the current parliamentary system.

Erdogan has signaled that he wants to become the president after 2015, when he won't be able to hold the prime minister's position any more.

The AKP has adopted a nationalist tone in its campaign to draw votes of the MHP, as Erdogan said a week ahead of elections that he would have favored the hanging of Abdullah Ocalan, the imprisoned leader of the outlawed Kurdish Workers' Party (PKK), if the AKP was ruling in late 1990s when the PKK leader was arrested.

The MHP has also been shaken by a series of sex scandal videos about its high-level officials in the past weeks. It blamed the AKP for being behind the scandals but the AKP denied it.

The making of a new constitution requires at least 330 votes of deputies in the Turkish parliament. If the number of votes is between 330 and 367, the draft is automatically taken to a referendum. If the number reaches 367, it will be passed without the approvement of a referendum.

The CHP's new leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has accused Erdogan of intolerance of opponents, especially the growing numbers of journalists detained under the AKP rule.

The CHP focused on poverty and unemployment throughout its election campaign. Its family insurance project, promising monthly payment to poor families, has been applauded by crowds.

Rather than appealing to secularist concerns as it did in the previous elections, the CHP talked much about freedom and rights. It has criticized the 10-percent threshold for squeezing out small parties, while the AKP defends it as a way to maintain stability.

To evade the restriction, members of the pro-Kurdish Peace and Democracy Party (BDP) are running as independent candidates. They have campaigned for "democratic autonomy" featuring decentralization and more regional administrative power.

In last general elections in 2007, the AKP received 46.58 percent of national votes and collected 341 parliamentary seats. The CHP was the second, winning 20.88 percent of votes and 112 seats. The MHP received 14.27 percent of votes and 71 seats.

Source: Xinhua
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