Turkey enters final countdown to parliament elections

15:37, June 07, 2011      

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Turkey has entered the final countdown to parliament elections set to be held on June 12 as the ruling Justice and Development Party headed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the main opposition Republican People's Party staged massive rallies in Istanbul at the weekend.

Erdogan addressed a huge crowd Sunday during an election rally for his party in Istanbul's Kazlicsme Square, held one day after the main opposition had a rally in the same location.

More than 200,000 people gathered for the rally of the ruling Justice and Development Party, or AKP. The crowd was much bigger than the turnout for the Republican People's Party, or CHP, meeting on Saturday.

Erdogan pledged his supporters in Istanbul that the largest demarche of the new government, if his party is re-elected, will be drafting a brand new constitution that will reflect more freedoms and the demands of the people.

He urged people to elect more than 367 deputies -- the minimum required to adopt constitutional changes without going to a referendum -- so that "the nation will assign us" to draft a new constitution.

Noting that his party wants a more participatory, pro-freedom constitution, Erdogan promised that all civil society organizations will participate in writing the new constitution.

Turkey's ruling party has raised the stakes of the upcoming election with just a week to go until the polls, calling for a two- thirds majority in the parliament to swiftly renew the country's charter. Erdogan ruled out a potential constitutional referendum if his party wins at least 367 seats in the June 12 election.

The AKP is the current ruling party under Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is by far the country's dominant political figure and his party, the AKP, is likely to win its third parliamentary election in a row on June 12.

Under the rule of Erdogan's AKP party which came into power since 2002, Turkey has become one of the world's fastest growing economies and a powerhouse in the region, while it has also opened negotiations to join the European Union.

If AKP wins a two-thirds majority it would allow Erdogan to unilaterally push through a planned new constitution. Erdogan also wants a more presidential system and that he covets the presidency.

The opposition accuses AKP of wanting to monopolize power and says that while Turkey's constitution needs reform, a new charter without input from other parties would be simply an AKP version of democracy and would concentrate too much control in Erdogan's hands.

The CHP says Turkey needs to modernize its constitution, but is deeply suspicious of Erdogan and AKP for its Islamist past.

Despite strong GDP growth Turkey's economy is not without challenges: the current account deficit is ballooning, foreigners are cutting Turkish debt and currency exposure, fiscal policy needs tightening to cool overheating and youth unemployment is high.

Source: Xinhua
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