Turkey prepares for election day

Surveys indicate that the ruling AK Party is likely to retain its majority.

    Turkish parties wrapped up their election campaigns on the eve of the July 22 election [EPA]

    In the last elections, in 2002, only two parties cleared the 10 per cent hurdle for seats in Turkey's parliament, ensuring an almost two-thirds majority for the AK party.
     
    But this time the Nationalist Movement Party looks likely to clear the 10 per cent barrier on Sunday. If it does it will likely take AK party seats.
     
    Secular state
     

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    The elections were triggered in part by the AK party's nomination of Abdullah Gul, Turkey's foreign minister, for president.
     
    The nomination of Gul, whose wife covers her head, prompted a reaction from secularists, who held massive rallies in several cities in protest, and the opposition boycotted the presidential vote in parliament.
     
    Many said it would be a disgrace for a headscarf-clad first lady to live in the mansion once occupied by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish secular state.
     
    In response, the government withdraw Gul's candidacy and called the July elections.
     
    Speaking on Saturday in an interview with Barnaby Philips, Al Jazeera's Turkey correspondent, Gul said that after the elections he would decide whether to again stand for president.
     
    "At the moment we are concentrating on winning the elections with a big majority. After we have won we will sit down and talk ... and we will make our decision [about the presidency]."
     
    He said there was "a great deal of enthusiasm and sympathy for me on the street".
     
    Special report

    A series of reports ahead of the country's parliamentary elections

    Asked if he would ask his wife to stop wearing the headscarf, Gul told Al Jazeera: "I have no right to give orders to my wife.
     
    This is something for her to decide and has nothing to do with government business."
     
    Meanwhile, in an interview on Turkish television, Erdogan said his party will focus on the headscarf issue if it returns to power.
     
    He also added there needs to be "institutional consensus", to defuse the conflict over the issue.
     
    The headscarf is a divisive topic in Turkey, which has banned the Islamic-style head covering in official settings and state institutions.
     
    It was banned in universities in 1980.
     
    Over twenty five years on, the AK party's efforts to end restrictions on the Islamic headscarf still meet with deep resistance from the military-backed, secular establishment.
     
    Erdogan has said he will quit politics if his party fails to win an absolute majority.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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