Turks go to the polls Sunday (June 24) in one of modern Turkey’s most important national elections with both parliament and the presidency at stake at the same time, a first in Turkish history under a new constitution. It will also be a verdict on the 15-year rule of controversial President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has been given new executive powers.
Mr. Erdogan must capture more than 50-percent of the vote to avoid a July 8th runoff. His ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) must take also take more than 300-seats in the 600-seat parliament to avoid a coalition partnership. Ahmet Sozen is a political science and international affairs professor at Eastern Mediterranean University on Cyprus. He told VOA’s Victor Beattie
“the outcome is crucial because Turkey matters to the world, it is the second biggest army in the NATO; So who rules Turkey really matters; So the test this time is going to be between whether people are happy with a decades and a half long rule by Erdoğan and Justice and Development Party; Or, whether the Turks are ready for change; But of course the election is going to take place under extraordinary law, the state of emergency which is continuing in the last two years after the coup attempt in the summer of 2016; Erdoğan’s party is holding the upperhand when it comes to the media coverage because majority of the Turkish media is mostly very friendly with Erdoğan;under control of people who are supporters of Erdoğan; so, the opposition is entering into this crucial election in a disadvantaged position.
Will this election turn on the first time young voters?
I think so, because Turkey is a country with a huge population which is relatively young, definitely the young voters are very important; we will see how many of them or what percentage of them will actually go to the polls; The voters turn on in Turkey has always been much higher.
Do you expect a run off July 8th?
If the elections are going to take place in a fair and just vote let say, that is my expectation, We have several candidates running in the presidential election, especially not in the parliamentary but presidential election, the more candidates we have, the more votes will be distributed among them, it would be very difficult for one candidate to get more than 50% of the votes in the first round.
How important is the outcome of this election to Turkey, its allies, the European Union, the US and Syria?
I think that this is very important because especially in the last three years Turkey has been ruled in a way that there is a high polarization in the country; between those who support Erdoğan, for the matter of stability, on the other hand, we have those who believe that this tension and polarization in Turkey is very dangerous, that we need to reestablish democratic rule again, we have to uphold rule of law and democracy in Turkey and go back to the parliamentary system, rather than handing substantive executive powers into the hands of one man.”