After a week of dark clouds, rain and storms, the day dawned calm in Istanbul and much of Turkey, while its citizens were heading to the 160,000 polling stations spread across the country.
Some 53 million people today are called to the polls, the first time that citizens directly elect the President, which until now was chosen by Parliament.
Ballots containing the names and pictures of three candidates: the current prime minister and great favorite in the polls, the former diplomat Recep Tayyip Erdogan Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and academics representing the main opposition parties; and Kurdish political leader Selahattin Demirtas.
Polling stations opened at 8 am local time, were scheduled to close at 5 pm and the first provisional results should be able to know tonight. The Electoral Commission is to publish the final and official tally on August 15. The Prime Minister Erdogan even voted this afternoon with his family in Uskudar district on the Asian side of Istanbul in which you reside. “These elections are important to lead until 2023 until 2071 [ when met thousand years of Turkish conquest of Anatolia ]. Hopefully that participation is high,” said Erdogan, who also insisted on the historic character of the president is elected by direct vote.
In Istanbul, the streets full of posters with his face and slogans Erdogan seemed less crowded than usual for a Sunday. Some shops and bars did not open, also because these days most of the people are on vacation. In addition, the electoral law prohibits alcohol sales on election day.
This week a survey was 57 percent of the vote to Erdogan, prime minister since 2003 and whose Party for Justice and Development (AKP in Turkish, Islamist and conservative) came to power a year ago. But today no candidate obtains more than half of the ballots, the top two would meet in a second round on the 24th.
Last week, of about 2.8 million Turks living abroad voted only 8 per cent. In Turkey itself expected a high turnout despite being in the holiday period, but the first few hours suggest that this may be less than in the last elections, held in March local.
Demirtas voted this morning in Diyarbakir, the largest city in the Kurdish region in southeastern Turkey, where he declared that ” Whatever the result today, not the end of the struggle for democracy, but only the beginning.”
Ihsanoglu, who has cast his ballot in Istanbul, said that ” the most accurate election poll is today ” and says his campaign will denounce any attempt of fraud at the polls.
Erdogan is the most popular politician in the country and his party has won every election since 2002, including March despite three months before a corruption scandal had forced the resignation of four ministers Until recently praised by settling democracy and promote economic development in Turkey, Erdogan is currently a very divisive figure that polarizes Turkish society, and in the last 15 months has been massive demonstrations against him. While half the country loves him, another largely increasingly accused of being “authoritarian” and want to impose their particular conservative vision to the whole society.
In recent weeks, Ihsanoglu and Demirtas complained that Erdogan was using the resources of his office as prime minister to campaign as president. The law did not require that Erdogan left the post to run for president, and remains the head of government if today is not elected to the presidency.
” Although Turkey is a country in transition to democracy and has some problems in relation to the freedoms and rights, has itself been very successful in conducting free and fair elections since 1950,” says Ali Aslan, a member of the Foundation for Political, Economic and Social Research, a think tank in Ankara.
For its part, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) sent a team of election observers and his boss said this week that the final report will include recommendations to improve the Turkish electoral system.
A head of state ‘s executive branch
The new president will be the 12th of the Turkish Republic and its figure is seen as neutral. The choice, which on August 28 will succeed Abdullah Gul, will have to give up his party and a single reelection, may, within five years.
” Maybe this is my last meeting as prime minister and as president of the AKP. But this is not goodbye, or perhaps just a farewell to the old Turkey, “he said yesterday his followers Erdogan, who has made it clear that he would not continue the tradition and its Presidency would be active and partisan, also on his election directly by the citizens.
” A president elected directly by the people will have more power and legitimacy to implement its policies. And as the unquestioned leader of the AKP, Erdogan would have a great capacity to influence Turkish politics through the party and Parliament, “analyzes in this line Ahmet Uysal, a professor at the University Marmaray.
Also, Erdogan and his inner circle in the AKP have also said that, after the general elections scheduled for the summer of 2015, would like to amend the Constitution to, among other changes, give more power to the executive figure head of state, and and turn toward a presidential system. Thus, Erdogan aspire to be CEO and absolute leader of the country in 2023, when the 100th anniversary of the founding of the modern Republic.
But even this possible constitutional change, if Erdogan is elected president this month Turkey will also have a new chief executive, the first change in 11 years of government and would have to coexist with the ambitions of the newly elected head of state.
” That’s really the big question, not whether Erdogan will be chosen. Who will be the new prime minister and what kind of relationship you will have with Erdogan as president, “said Sinan Ulgen, former diplomat and president of the Center for Studies in Economics and Foreign Policy, a think tank based in Istanbul. Many point to the current foreign minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, Erdogan near as possible new head of government.
On the other hand, both as Demirtas Ihsanoglu told that, if elected, would maintain the figure of the president as nonpartisan and symbol of national unity.
” We enjoy freedom in our common homeland, without any perception of separation or division. No one should be afraid, because together we can move easily, “he said yesterday at his final rally Demirtas, the Kurdish leader who presents himself as the candidate of change and on behalf of all Turks.