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Turkey's Election: Erdogan Set to Gain New Presidential Powers Despite Growing Voter Resentment

Elections will mark switch to new, more powerful presidency, but an ailing economy and a deteriorating record on human rights and freedoms after a 2016 coup attempt have led to a shift in voter sentiment

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Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Ankara, Turkey, June 9, 2018
Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan addresses his supporters during an election rally in Ankara, Turkey, June 9, 2018Credit: REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Tayyip Erdogan is seen falling short of a first-round victory in Turkey's presidential election and his ruling AK Party is forecast to lose its parliamentary majority in the June 24 vote, a survey by pollster Gezici showed on Thursday.

Erdogan called the snap elections in April, more than a year early, saying Turkey needs to switch to a powerful executive presidency to tackle economic and security challenges. The new presidential powers were narrowly approved last year.

Gezici's survey of 6,811 respondents, conducted between May 25-26, showed Erdogan receiving 48.7 percent of votes in the first round of presidential election, with the main opposition candidate, Muharrem Ince, getting 25.8 percent.

Erdogan and Ince were followed by Meral Aksener, a former interior minister who founded the Iyi Party last year after being sacked from the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), which has entered an election alliance with the AK Party. Aksener was seen getting 14.4 percent of votes, Gezici's poll showed.

The jailed candidate of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP), Selahattin Demirtas, has 10.1 percent support, the poll showed.

Even though he is campaigning from behind bars, Demirtas, one of Turkey's best-known politicians, is expected to boost his party's chances of overcoming a 10 percent threshold needed to enter parliament.

Battle for parliament

Erdogan, modern Turkey's most successful and divisive leader, and his AK Party have ruled for more than 15 years, and currently hold a parliamentary majority.

However, Gezici's poll showed that the AK Party's alliance with the nationalist MHP would fall short of a majority in the 600-seat assembly, with 48.7 percent of the votes.

Their rival alliance, composed of the main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP), Iyi Party and Saadet Party, is seen receiving 38.9 percent of votes, the poll showed, while the HDP was seen at 11.5 percent.

The HDP's performance in the parliamentary polls is important because it does not have an alliance partner. If it fails to cross the 10 percent threshold, its seats go to the party that came second in districts where the HDP came first.

That would most likely benefit Erdogan's ruling AKP, which is also strong in the east and the mainly Kurdish southeast.

"According to the poll, the ruling party is seen losing the parliamentary majority. Despite the alliances that will be in parliament after the June 24 elections, no single party or alliance is seen reaching a simple majority," the poll said.

However, the polling group's chairman Murat Gezici told Reuters that voters were not sympathetic towards alliances and that this caused the distribution of votes to vary in the poll.

Independently, the AK Party is seen getting 43.1 percent, while their nationalist partner receives 6.2 percent, still falling short of a majority in parliament but marginally higher than what the poll shows as support for their alliance.

The elections will herald Turkey's switch to the new presidency championed by Erdogan, but an ailing economy and a deteriorating record on human rights and freedoms after a 2016 coup attempt have led to a shift of sentiment in voters, the poll showed.

"These general and presidential elections will be the most difficult elections in Turkey's past 20 years," Gezici said.

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