Turkish polls a 'pivotal moment'

Stakes high for future of President Erdogan and the nation from outcome of voting today

ISTANBUL/ANKARA • President Tayyip Erdogan is unambiguous about what he wants from an election today, casting it as a pivotal moment for Turkey: A return to the single-party rule he presided over for more than a decade until June.

The outcome of the second parliamentary election this year will be important not only for Turkey's domestic stability and its role in resolving the conflict in Syria and Europe's migration crisis, but also for Mr Erdogan himself.

The EU candidate nation of 74 million is confronted by a slowing economy, deep social divisions, suicide bombings and renewed conflict in its Kurdish south-east, plus the chaos in neighbouring Syria and an influx of refugees.

Mr Erdogan has made no secret of his ambition to create a presidential system, a constitutional change almost impossible unless the Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) he founded regains the majority it lost in June's election and dominates Parliament. If the AKP fails to secure a majority, it may have to share power with the main secularist opposition - an outcome Western allies, foreign investors and many Turks say might ease social divisions and keep Mr Erdogan's hunger for greater power in check.

Opinion polls in recent weeks have suggested the AKP will struggle to win back its majority but may take more of the vote than in the June 7 polls, when it won 40.9 per cent and was left unable to govern alone for the first time since 2002.

AKP officials acknowledge privately that if the numbers go against them, a coalition with the Republican People's Party - which came second in June - would be most likely, though Mr Erdogan would not relish accommodating a party whose secularist ideals are diametrically opposed to his own.

All eyes will also be on the Peoples' Democratic Party, which made history in June when it became the first pro-Kurdish group in Parliament, getting enough seats to block an AKP majority.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on November 01, 2015, with the headline 'Turkish polls a 'pivotal moment''. Print Edition | Subscribe