(ANKARA, Turkey) — Turkey’s voters will go to the polls Sunday for the country’s second election since emergency rule was imposed after the 2016 attempted coup.
President Recep Erdogan has since the attempted coup acted to reassert his position and his power, including through the imposition of emergency law that enables him to pass legislation without parliamentary scrutiny or intervention from the judiciary.
In addition, the government has imprisoned more than 140 journalists and dismissed or suspended from duty more than 100,000 public servants, according to Human Rights Watch. Around 28,000 of these dismissed public employees are teachers whom the government says are supporters of exiled dissident Fethullah Gulen.
Why is Turkey going to the polls again?
Citing economic challenges and a growing military campaign in Syria, Erdogan announced this snap election — its fourth election in six years — more than a year before it is due. When it was announced, the opposition had barely two months to organize a campaign. Some international observers raise concerns about whether a fair election is possible considering Erdogan has almost complete control of domestic media, including newspapers that account for around 90 percent of overall circulation.
The voting process
More than 50 million voters will head to the polls on Sunday to choose both the president and representatives to the Parliament. There are also 3 million expatriates eligible to vote, some of whom started voting early this month. If no presidential candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, the election moves to a runoff vote in early July.
Who is the opposition?
The main opposition party, the Republican People’s Party is led by Muharrem Ince. Conservative but secular, this party is opposed to Erdogan’s conservative party, accusing it of promoting a creeping Islamisation of country.
Nationalist candidate Meral Aksener, nicknamed the “she-wolf” by her admirers, leads the Iyi party and is seen by many as the only viable alternative to Erdogan in a country that is becoming increasingly conservative. She is targeting voters in Erdogan’s party who are unhappy with corruption allegations, as well as others who are growing frustrated with the inability of other opposition parties to take control.
There is also a Kurdish presidential candidate, Selahattin Demirtas, who is running from behind bars after being imprisoned in November 2016 as part of the purge following the attempted coup. He won almost 10 percent of the vote in the last election, and if he were to get a bigger percentage this time, the ruling coalition may lose its majority. However there are widespread fears of vote-rigging and intimidation of voters, particularly in areas heavily populated by Kurds in the southeast of the country.
What happens after the vote?
If Erdogan wins both the presidency and control of Parliament, observers worry that Turkey could continue a slide from authoritarianism to outright dictatorship. Most analysts believe, however, that Erdogan will take the presidency but lose a majority in Parliament, which could lead to turbulent political times ahead for Turkey and possibly force another election if political gridlock ensues.
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