Economics, alleged corruption and Kurdish situation considered by voters in poll that could bolster president’s power
Economic promises, alleged state corruption and the Kurdish situation are some of the issues being considered by Turkish voters as they go to the polls in parliamentary elections on Sunday.
The outcome of the polls could also determine whether ruling party politicians can rewrite the constitution to bolster the powers of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
The ballot boxes opened at 8am local time (0500GMT) and will close at 5pm (1400GMT), with non-official results expected by the end of the day.
Public surveys prior to the election indicated the conservative Justice and Development Party (AK party) was in the lead.
The AK party, the ruling party for the past 13 years, is seeking to secure two-thirds of the 550 seats in the parliament in order to change the constitution to replace Turkey’s 92-year-old parliamentary system for a presidential system.
However, the majority of surveys suggest that a victory with such a large margin is unlikely for the party.
One Minute Turkey Election
All the other three main parties likely to pass Turkey’s 10 percent threshold for entry to the parliament – the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), the Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and the left-wing pro-Kurdish People’s Democracy Party (HDP) – are against such a change.
Galip Dalay, a senior fellow with the Al Jazeera Center for Studies on Turkey and Kurdish affairs, said the election has been reduced to a referendum on whether Turkey should change its political system or not.
“The whole battle falls around if Turkey should have a parliamentary system or a presidential one. Unfortunately, all other items on the agenda have taken a back seat to this dominant election issue,” he told Al Jazeera from Istanbul.
However, Turkish voters acoss the nation told Al Jazeera that corruption, economic promises and the Kurdish issue were also important to their voting decisions.
The run-up to the elections has seen discussions on the Kurdish dispute in the context of ongoing peace talks with the outlawed armed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK).
In addition to the AK party, which is the architect of the initiative, the peace process is supported by the HDP and the centre-left Republican People’s Party. Only the Nationalist Action Party, Turkey’s third largest party, opposes the talks.
The election campaign has been marred by several bomb attacks on HDP offices. On Friday, an attack on a rally in the predominantly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir killed two people. Protests followed the attack and minor clashes with security forces followed.
Salih Sonmez, 42, a Kurdish cook from Mersin, said his entire family had voted for the AK party in the last few elections but was not getting his vote this time.
“The AK party promised us hope, but they made Turkey worse. There is so much corruption, waste and nepotism. Turks and Kurds should be united. However, this tense atmosphere is not helping,” Sonmez said.
In the sphere of economy, three opposition parties have made big economic promises to the public, including substantial rises in the minimum wage.
These promises were dismissed as unrealistic by AK party officials and Erdogan, who criticised the opposition for starting “a tender for the minimum wage” that would “increase unemployment”.
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The AK party took over an economy reeling from high levels of inflation and unemployment, and is credited with restoring stability by pushing growth through trade and foreign investment.
Emel Huba, 55, a pensioner from Istanbul, said she would vote for the CHP “to get rid of this corrupt government”.
“The president stays in his presidential palace that is worth billions of dollars, but the government does not want to spare a small raise to pensioners,” Huba said.
“This is wasteful and unfair. Many people regret voting for the AK Party.”
Gokalp Ali Baz, 28, a financial adviser in Ankara, said he would vote for the MHP “because I don’t believe my vote is going to change much in Turkey or rather, the country is going to change much following the elections”.
“The country is not going well and it is going to be even worse. I am not hopeful.”
Mehmet Kin, 31, a shop owner in Istanbul, said he would vote for the Communist party as he feared that “a worse Turkey awaits us after the elections”.
“In Turkey, the elections are never fair, even in cases where there is no systematic corruption in elections,” Kin said.
“People counting the votes can act in a subjective way and call some of the votes invalid in line with their political views. I have seen this as I was on duty at a polling station.”
But others said they would vote for the AK party again as they wanted Turkey to remain stable.
“I do not want a coalition government,” Omar Harman, 19, a waiter in Istanbul, said.
“Promises by other parties, such as large increases of the minimum wage, are not realistic.”
Munevver Karaca, 52, a housewife from Sivas, was also going to vote with the AK party “because of its services to this nation in many ways”.
“I think Turkey is having the best times in its history,” Karaca said.
Source: Al Jazeera