News / Middle East

Turkey Poised for First Direct Presidential Poll

Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan wave to supporters after a rally in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014.
Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his wife Emine Erdogan wave to supporters after a rally in Ankara, Turkey, Friday, Aug. 8, 2014.
Dorian Jones

Millions of people in Turkey head to the polls Sunday for the country's first direct presidential election.

Turnout is expected to be high as Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan faces Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, former chief of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, and Selahattin Demirtas of the pro-Kurdish People's Democracy Party.

Erdogan is the front-runner. If elected, he says he intends to change the constitution and establish an executive presidency. In the past, Turkey's presidents have been ceremonial figureheads.

Erdogan’s campaign, backed by his ruling AK Party, has massively outspent his two rivals, and the prime minister's supporters are widely seen as well organized and well financed across the country.

Erdogan promises he will represent Turkey's "national will” when he becomes president. Political analyst Atilla Yesilada, of Global Source Partners, says an Erdogan administration is likely to be very different than the presidential role that Turks are accustomed to.
 
"It appears to me a new blueprint is being crafted, [with] almost all the major policy decisions of Turkey being taken in the presidential palace by Erdogan," said Yesilada.

The prime minister has said he would exercise the full powers of the presidency under Turkey's existing laws, including the authority to call parliament, summon cabinet meetings and appoint prime ministers, the council of ministers and some high court judges.

Religious conservatives, who are Erdogan's core supporters, see his likely rise to the presidency as the crowning achievement of his drive to reshape Turkey. In his decade as prime minister, he has broken the hold of the secular elite that dominated government since the founding of the modern Turkish republic in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk.

The prime minister's critics are disturbed by his Islamist political roots and his increasingly authoritarian bent. In the past year, Erdogan has purged thousands of police and prosecutors, increased the powers of the intelligence agency and banned access to YouTube and Twitter as he fought off corruption probes that implicated the government and family members.

Erdogan's campaign slogan is "national will, national power." He says whatever the outcome of Sunday's election, Turkey will not be the same.

Rivals campaign against 'authoritarianism'

In contrast to Erdogan, his rivals, Selahattin Demirtas and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, are campaigning against "authoritarianism," promising they will not make significant changes in the country's balance of power.

But the prime minister's fortunes have been boosted by difficulties facing by his chief rival, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu. The center-left Republican People's Party selected the former head of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation as its candidate in the hopes that his religious background would win over some traditional supporters of the prime minister.

Analyst Sinan Ulgen of the Carnegie Institute in Brussels says that move may have backfired.

"It really hinges on whether [Ihsanoglu] gets full support from the CHP [Republican People's Party] constituency," said Ulgen. "And, looking at the reaction from within the CHP, that is not very likely to happen. We may see a split within the party because of the conservative background of the candidate."

Experts say many CHP supporters could boycott the vote. However, Ihsanoglu also is backed by the right-wing National Action Party.

Regardless of who wins, political analysts and observers expect that Turkey's deep political polarization will only intensify.

Some information for this report comes from AP and Reuters.

You May Like

Unpaid Kurdish Fighters Sign of Economic Woes

Sharp cuts in Kurdistan's budget by Baghdad, falling oil revenue, coping with refugees, inflated public sector have hit regional economy hard More

Koreas Exchange List of Envoys for Family Reunion Talks

Officials will discuss date, venue and number of participants for reunion; Seoul hopes to hold event late this month More

China Targets 197 in Online Speech Crackdown

Nearly 200 punished for 'spreading rumors' online in ongoing crackdown on free speech More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Philip Smeeton from: Oslo
August 10, 2014 6:52 AM
The majority of Turks are Muslims, given a free and fair democratic election they will vote for islamists. Then the islamists abolish democracy and establish an islamic state.

by: Philip Smeeton from: Oslo
August 10, 2014 6:48 AM
The majority of Turks are Muslims, given a free and fair democratic election they will vote for islamists. Then the islamists abolish democracy and establish an islamic state.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisisi
X
Lisa Bryant
September 02, 2015 6:19 PM
Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Calais School Offers Another Face of Europe’s Migrant Crisis

Europe is facing mounting criticism over how it’s handling its biggest migration crisis since World War II. But not all Europeans believe building walls or passing repressive policies are the answer. A school for migrants in the French port city of Calais, is opening doors and building bonds across nationalities. VOA's Lisa Bryant reports.
Video

Video Russia-Japan Relations Cool as Putin Visits China for WWII Anniversary

Russian President Vladimir Putin is in Beijing for commemorations of the 70th anniversary of China's WWII victory over Japan. Putin is expected to visit Japan later this year, but tensions between Tokyo and Moscow over islands disputed since the war, and sanctions over Ukraine, could pour cold water on the plan. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports.
Video

Video Kurdish Fighters on IS Frontline Ready for Offensive

Finger on the trigger, the Kurdish Peshmerga soldier stared across the dust at a village taken over by Islamic State extremists. The Kurdistan’s Khazir frontline, just 45 minutes from the Islamic State stronghold of Mosul. And at this point, the militants were less than two kilometers away. VOA's Sharon Behn reports.
Video

Video Yemen ‘on Brink of Disaster’ as Medical Shortages Soar

Aid agencies warn Yemen is on the brink of humanitarian disaster – with up to half a million children facing severe malnutrition, and hospitals running out of basic medicines. There are fears Yemen's civil war could escalate as the coalition led by Saudi Arabia tries to drive back Houthi rebels, who seized control of much of the country earlier this year. Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Apps Helping Kenyan Businesses Stay Ahead of Counterfeiters

Counterfeit goods in Kenya cost the government as much as $1 billion each year in lost tax revenues. The fake goods also hurt entrepreneurs who find it hard to carve out a niche in the market and retain customers. But as Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi, information technology is being used to try to beat the problem.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.

VOA Blogs