As Turks prepare to go to the polls on Sunday (12 June), all eyes are on Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdo?an's AK Party, which is expected to win close to 50% of the vote and should be able to form a government single-handedly. EURACTIV Turkey reports.
However, it remains unclear whether the AK Party (AKP) will manage to secure a minimum of 330 seats in parliament, which would allow the government to push through a new constitution without requiring a larger majority and would also pave the way for a new presidential system in Turkey.
"Turkey's upcoming parliamentary elections signal an opportunity for positive reform of the Turkish constitution and better relations with the European Union," wrote Sinan Ülgen, chairman of the Istanbul based Centre for Economics and Foreign Policy Studies (EDAM) in an exclusive commentary for EURACTIV.
Although there are 15 political parties participating in the elections, only three of them are expected to pass the electoral threshold of 10% necessary to win seats in parliament. These are the Prime Minister Erdo?an's conservative-democratic Justice and Development Party (AKP), the Republican People's Party (CHP) led by Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) with Devlet Bahceli at the helm.
In addition to those three, the political party most likely to record successes is the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), which mostly relies on Kurdish votes and according to pre-election polls could attract around 7% of the vote.
However, since the BDP is expected to fall short of the electoral threshold required of a political party, it is also supporting independent candidates who are exempt from the threshold requirement, particularly in south-eastern provinces and in major cities.
After the elections, these independent candidates are likely to gather under the banner of the BDP, meaning that the party should be represented by around 30 MPs in the next parliament.
The BDP's demand for Kurdish autonomy is expected to be a major issue on the Turkish political agenda. Another issue is whether or not Turkey will preserve its political unity.
Erdo?an in government since 2002
Erdo?an's AKP has been in government since 2002 and has carried out significant economic reforms. The party rallies under the banner 'Let stability continue, let Turkey grow'. Another slogan often used is 'We're targeting 2023, Turkey is ready' during political campaigns, which refers to the 100th anniversary of the establishment of the Republic of Turkey.
This means that the AKP, which has already been in government for nine years, aims to rule for another twelve.
Although the AKP is expected to win it remains unclear whether it will be able to win enough seats in parliament to draft a new constitution and put it to referendum. According to political scientists, the AKP will win 276 seats, which would enable it to form a new government single-handedly.
Debates on new constitution, presidential system
Analysts foresee heated debates after the elections over the new constitution and presidential system.
Erdo?an devoted a substantial amount of his campaign to reforming Turkey's present constitution, which came into effect after the 1980 coup and is known as 'the Constitution of the Coup'.
The prime minister wants to introduce a more democratic constitution prepared 'by the people' which reduces the likelihood of coups.
But Erdo?an also wishes to create a presidential system similar to that of the USA. If the AKP gets a minimum of 330 seats in parliament, he is expected to submit the introduction of a presidential system to a referendum along with the new constitution.
Erdo?an is aiming to become the first president elected by the people. He also wishes to be president for two consecutive terms and be leader when the Republic of Turkey celebrates its 100th anniversary in 2023.
To what extent these plans will become reality depends on the outcome of Sunday's elections. For this reason, 12 June is an important day for the future of Turkey.
Poverty and corruption high on the agenda
Poverty, fraud in university entry exams and the 'new rich' are all major issues in the elections. However, the AKP has used its fight against military coups as a pre-election boon. Two living members of the Military Council that drew up Turkey's constitution following the coup on 12 September 1980 were recently put under investigation.
In addition, the case of the 30 or so generals and high-ranking officers detained in the Ergenekon and Balyoz (Sledgehammer) affairs have been used politically during the elections.
The fact that some journalists and retired soldiers are candidates of various political parties or are presenting themselves as independents is another interesting feature of the upcoming elections.
Columnist Mustafa Balbay of the Cumhuriyet daily, who is on trial in the Ergenekon case, is one of the CHP's candidates in the Aegean province of Aydin, where the CHP is strong. Balbay, who is being detained in Silivri prison, is almost certain to be elected an MP in the next parliament.
The other parties
Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu, leader of the CHP, is running in the general elections for the first time as party chairman since taking over from Deniz Baykal after a sex tape scandal. K?l?çdaro?lu has attempted to give a more liberal face to CHP, which is often percieved as a nationalist party. The CHP is aiming to raise its share of the ballot to 30% from around 25%. If the CHP falls short of 30%, Kemal K?l?çdaro?lu's leadership may be called into question.
The MHP has also struggled since a series of sex tapes were revealed shortly before Sunday's elections. Around 10 senior members of the party's executive team resigned.
However, the incident was widely perceived as a conspiracy targeting the MHP. Some claimed that it was perpetrated to force the MHP below the electoral threshold and give the AKP an overwhelming majority in parliament. Any result above 10% will be considered a success for the MHP.
On Sunday Turkish voters will decide which parties and MPs will fill the 550 seats of the Turkish parliament for the next five years.
Over 50 million voters are expected to cast their ballots in 85 electoral regions. Fifteen political parties will participate in the elections. A total of 7,492 candidates will participate, of whom 203 are independent candidates.
2.5 million Turkish citizens living abroad have already been voting since 10 May.
- EURACTIV Turkey:Elections coverage