Let's talk Turkey — Your guide to the country's pivotal 2015 elections

Published June 4th, 2015 - 15:50 GMT

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On Sunday, Turkey goes to the ballot box to elect 550 members of the Grand National Assembly. This includes a new prime minister and parliamentary body, and it means a lot of things for a lot of people.

If Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) get their way, this election could actually lead to a constitutional rewrite, and more power for Erdogan.

Meanwhile, an opposition party Turkey has never before seen in parliament is emerging as a serious threat to the AKP reign, and a secular campaign is gaining ground among even traditionally conservative voters. Continue reading below »

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The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the current ruling force in the Turkish parliament. Despite not being its actual leader, this religiously conservative party is dominated by political heavyweight Erdogan, who is pounding round the country, shouting himself hoarse, Quran in hand, so as to get them a supermajority.
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Image 1 of 10:  1 / 10The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the current ruling force in the Turkish parliament. Despite not being its actual leader, this religiously conservative party is dominated by political heavyweight Erdogan, who is pounding round the country, shouting himself hoarse, Quran in hand, so as to get them a supermajority.

Enlarge
The main contender running against the AKP is the oldest political group in the country, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Founded by Turkish legend Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it is based on the strongly secular Kemalist movement, and speaks to the older generation of Raki drinkers and card players of the mid-20th Century.
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Image 2 of 10:  2 / 10The main contender running against the AKP is the oldest political group in the country, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Founded by Turkish legend Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it is based on the strongly secular Kemalist movement, and speaks to the older generation of Raki drinkers and card players of the mid-20th Century.

Enlarge
The HDP — In the past it’s failed to garner enough votes to make it into parliament, but this party is now becoming a new force on the political scene. Aiming to reflect the varied identities of modern Turks, it has become the voice of minority groups, including the Kurds, non-Muslims and the LGBTQ community.
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Image 3 of 10:  3 / 10The HDP — In the past it’s failed to garner enough votes to make it into parliament, but this party is now becoming a new force on the political scene. Aiming to reflect the varied identities of modern Turks, it has become the voice of minority groups, including the Kurds, non-Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

Enlarge
The Grey Wolves, or the MHP, is Turkey’s far-right nationalist party headed by Devlet Bahceli who has been coming out to heavily criticize Erdogan for his blatant flouting of the non-partisan element of the president’s role. It is driving an anti-Kurdish line, which it hopes will win over votes from the AKP.
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Image 4 of 10:  4 / 10The Grey Wolves, or the MHP, is Turkey’s far-right nationalist party headed by Devlet Bahceli who has been coming out to heavily criticize Erdogan for his blatant flouting of the non-partisan element of the president’s role. It is driving an anti-Kurdish line, which it hopes will win over votes from the AKP.

Enlarge
There is more to this election than these four parties — He’s not running himself for the Prime Minister position, but Erdogan’s role in this vote is anything but sideline. Instead,, he’s running an aggressive campaign to drive the country into what many fear could turn into a dictatorship. How? By literally changing the constitution.
Reduce

Image 5 of 10:  5 / 10There is more to this election than these four parties — He’s not running himself for the Prime Minister position, but Erdogan’s role in this vote is anything but sideline. Instead,, he’s running an aggressive campaign to drive the country into what many fear could turn into a dictatorship. How? By literally changing the constitution.

Enlarge
To extend his power beyond its current reach as president, Erdogan would need the constitution to reflect a Turkey run by an executive president with active, executive power in key spheres of the government. This is in contrast to the country’s current system of a democratic republic, run by a prime minister and a multi-party parliament.
Reduce

Image 6 of 10:  6 / 10To extend his power beyond its current reach as president, Erdogan would need the constitution to reflect a Turkey run by an executive president with active, executive power in key spheres of the government. This is in contrast to the country’s current system of a democratic republic, run by a prime minister and a multi-party parliament.

Enlarge
Erdogan’s name is not on the ballot this week, he only just began his five-year presidential term last August. What matters for this election is the parliament, and whether Erdogan’s AKP party can get a three-fifths majority there. To do this, the AKP must garner 330 out of 367 seats. Unlikely the polls suggest, but it’s not impossible.
Reduce

Image 7 of 10:  7 / 10Erdogan’s name is not on the ballot this week, he only just began his five-year presidential term last August. What matters for this election is the parliament, and whether Erdogan’s AKP party can get a three-fifths majority there. To do this, the AKP must garner 330 out of 367 seats. Unlikely the polls suggest, but it’s not impossible.

Enlarge
To nudge ‘not impossible’ further toward ‘probable’ is the fact that Erdogan and the AKP party are largely thought of as the most robust, powerful political machines in Turkey’s history. After all, Erdogan finished off a 12 year, three term premiership before stepping into the head of state position last year.
Reduce

Image 8 of 10:  8 / 10To nudge ‘not impossible’ further toward ‘probable’ is the fact that Erdogan and the AKP party are largely thought of as the most robust, powerful political machines in Turkey’s history. After all, Erdogan finished off a 12 year, three term premiership before stepping into the head of state position last year.

Enlarge
There’s another element in next week’s election that’s bringing some serious heat to Erdogan’s master plan. For the first time, the HDP has a decent chance at garnering ten percent of the votes and getting into parliament. Passing that threshold automatically grants the HDP 50 seats and makes Erdogan’s three-fifths majority impossible.
Reduce

Image 9 of 10:  9 / 10There’s another element in next week’s election that’s bringing some serious heat to Erdogan’s master plan. For the first time, the HDP has a decent chance at garnering ten percent of the votes and getting into parliament. Passing that threshold automatically grants the HDP 50 seats and makes Erdogan’s three-fifths majority impossible.

Enlarge
According to surveys, Turkish voters are warming to both the HDP and CHP. This is partly due to the middle ground approach from both parties — the HDP’s toned down the Kurdish identity rhetoric, while the CHP’s steered clear of anti-religious tones. It’s also due to a growing worry among voters of an increasingly authoritarian AKP.
Reduce

Image 10 of 10:  10 / 10According to surveys, Turkish voters are warming to both the HDP and CHP. This is partly due to the middle ground approach from both parties — the HDP’s toned down the Kurdish identity rhetoric, while the CHP’s steered clear of anti-religious tones. It’s also due to a growing worry among voters of an increasingly authoritarian AKP.

Enlarge

1

The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the current ruling force in the Turkish parliament. Despite not being its actual leader, this religiously conservative party is dominated by political heavyweight Erdogan, who is pounding round the country, shouting himself hoarse, Quran in hand, so as to get them a supermajority.

Image 1 of 10The Justice and Development Party (AKP) is the current ruling force in the Turkish parliament. Despite not being its actual leader, this religiously conservative party is dominated by political heavyweight Erdogan, who is pounding round the country, shouting himself hoarse, Quran in hand, so as to get them a supermajority.

2

The main contender running against the AKP is the oldest political group in the country, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Founded by Turkish legend Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it is based on the strongly secular Kemalist movement, and speaks to the older generation of Raki drinkers and card players of the mid-20th Century.

Image 2 of 10The main contender running against the AKP is the oldest political group in the country, the Republican People’s Party (CHP). Founded by Turkish legend Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, it is based on the strongly secular Kemalist movement, and speaks to the older generation of Raki drinkers and card players of the mid-20th Century.

3

The HDP — In the past it’s failed to garner enough votes to make it into parliament, but this party is now becoming a new force on the political scene. Aiming to reflect the varied identities of modern Turks, it has become the voice of minority groups, including the Kurds, non-Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

Image 3 of 10The HDP — In the past it’s failed to garner enough votes to make it into parliament, but this party is now becoming a new force on the political scene. Aiming to reflect the varied identities of modern Turks, it has become the voice of minority groups, including the Kurds, non-Muslims and the LGBTQ community.

4

The Grey Wolves, or the MHP, is Turkey’s far-right nationalist party headed by Devlet Bahceli who has been coming out to heavily criticize Erdogan for his blatant flouting of the non-partisan element of the president’s role. It is driving an anti-Kurdish line, which it hopes will win over votes from the AKP.

Image 4 of 10The Grey Wolves, or the MHP, is Turkey’s far-right nationalist party headed by Devlet Bahceli who has been coming out to heavily criticize Erdogan for his blatant flouting of the non-partisan element of the president’s role. It is driving an anti-Kurdish line, which it hopes will win over votes from the AKP.

5

There is more to this election than these four parties — He’s not running himself for the Prime Minister position, but Erdogan’s role in this vote is anything but sideline. Instead,, he’s running an aggressive campaign to drive the country into what many fear could turn into a dictatorship. How? By literally changing the constitution.

Image 5 of 10There is more to this election than these four parties — He’s not running himself for the Prime Minister position, but Erdogan’s role in this vote is anything but sideline. Instead,, he’s running an aggressive campaign to drive the country into what many fear could turn into a dictatorship. How? By literally changing the constitution.

6

To extend his power beyond its current reach as president, Erdogan would need the constitution to reflect a Turkey run by an executive president with active, executive power in key spheres of the government. This is in contrast to the country’s current system of a democratic republic, run by a prime minister and a multi-party parliament.

Image 6 of 10To extend his power beyond its current reach as president, Erdogan would need the constitution to reflect a Turkey run by an executive president with active, executive power in key spheres of the government. This is in contrast to the country’s current system of a democratic republic, run by a prime minister and a multi-party parliament.

7

Erdogan’s name is not on the ballot this week, he only just began his five-year presidential term last August. What matters for this election is the parliament, and whether Erdogan’s AKP party can get a three-fifths majority there. To do this, the AKP must garner 330 out of 367 seats. Unlikely the polls suggest, but it’s not impossible.

Image 7 of 10Erdogan’s name is not on the ballot this week, he only just began his five-year presidential term last August. What matters for this election is the parliament, and whether Erdogan’s AKP party can get a three-fifths majority there. To do this, the AKP must garner 330 out of 367 seats. Unlikely the polls suggest, but it’s not impossible.

8

To nudge ‘not impossible’ further toward ‘probable’ is the fact that Erdogan and the AKP party are largely thought of as the most robust, powerful political machines in Turkey’s history. After all, Erdogan finished off a 12 year, three term premiership before stepping into the head of state position last year.

Image 8 of 10To nudge ‘not impossible’ further toward ‘probable’ is the fact that Erdogan and the AKP party are largely thought of as the most robust, powerful political machines in Turkey’s history. After all, Erdogan finished off a 12 year, three term premiership before stepping into the head of state position last year.

9

There’s another element in next week’s election that’s bringing some serious heat to Erdogan’s master plan. For the first time, the HDP has a decent chance at garnering ten percent of the votes and getting into parliament. Passing that threshold automatically grants the HDP 50 seats and makes Erdogan’s three-fifths majority impossible.

Image 9 of 10There’s another element in next week’s election that’s bringing some serious heat to Erdogan’s master plan. For the first time, the HDP has a decent chance at garnering ten percent of the votes and getting into parliament. Passing that threshold automatically grants the HDP 50 seats and makes Erdogan’s three-fifths majority impossible.

10

According to surveys, Turkish voters are warming to both the HDP and CHP. This is partly due to the middle ground approach from both parties — the HDP’s toned down the Kurdish identity rhetoric, while the CHP’s steered clear of anti-religious tones. It’s also due to a growing worry among voters of an increasingly authoritarian AKP.

Image 10 of 10According to surveys, Turkish voters are warming to both the HDP and CHP. This is partly due to the middle ground approach from both parties — the HDP’s toned down the Kurdish identity rhetoric, while the CHP’s steered clear of anti-religious tones. It’s also due to a growing worry among voters of an increasingly authoritarian AKP.

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All of this against a backdrop of terrifying Daesh advances in neighboring Syria, a Kurdish struggle to keep them from closing in on border towns there, and a US-led train and equip program aimed at helping Syrian rebels join the fight.

Seem like lot to take in? That’s because it is — Turkey has a pivotal role in MENA politics, and what happens on Sunday does, too. Here’s what you need to know.

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