Turkish citizens are voting in elections to select the new members of parliament, and, more significantly, to elect a president with increased powers.
Amendments made to the constitution last year will give the new president substantial executive powers compared to the mostly symbolic role the office in the current parliamentary system.
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In contrast, the powers of the cabinet and parliament, which are currently the main executive and legislative branches in Turkish political system, will be reduced.
The parliament moved the election, originally scheduled for November 3, 2019, forward by more than a year in April.
The race will take place under a state of emergency that has been ongoing since a coup attempt against the government of Recep Tayyip Erdogan in July 2016.
Here is all you need to know about the key election.
The parliamentary election will determine the incoming 600 members of parliament, up from 550, and the minimum age for members will be 18, lowered from 25 by the 2017 constitutional amendments.
Parliamentary election are to be held every five years, raised from four years, and are held on the same day of the presidential election.
Citizens over 18 years of age are eligible to vote.
In the current parliamentary system, the conservative Justice and Development Party (AK Party) rules the country alone, controlling around three-fifths of the seats in parliament after the November 2015 general election.
It is followed by the main opposition centre-right Republican People’s Party (CHP), pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP), far-right Nationalist Action Party (MHP) and newly formed right-wing IYI (Good) Party.
A law passed by parliament on March 3, 2018, allows parties to form alliances and enter the election with a joint list of candidates for the parliamentary election.
Seats are secured on party or alliance-list proportional representation, with each party or alliance sending a number of MPs to parliament based on its share of local votes in constituencies.
If an alliance passes 10 percent electoral threshold, all parties in the alliance will be considered over the margin. Then, all the parties can be represented at parliament, as long as their candidates secure enough votes in their constituencies. Accordingly, the new legislation should help smaller parties to enter the parliament.
As a result, a number of alliances have been formed by some of the 10 parties competing in the election.
Six politicians are running in the presidential election, which can have either one or two rounds. If a single receives more than 50 percent of the vote in the first round, that candidate is declared the winner.
If that does not happen, the two candidates who secured the highest number of votes in the first stage will compete in the second round of the election.
The People’s Alliance is entering the presidential race with a common candidate, incumbent Recep President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, while the parties in the Nation Alliance have individual presidential candidates in the first round.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan, 64, is the candidate of the People’s Alliance. He has been in power for more than 15 years, either as prime minister or president, and has led Turkey’s economic transition to an emerging market – although there are ongoing economic worries recently.
He shifted Turkey’s foreign policy towards the East and is still widely supported by conservatives of the country. However, Turkey’s Western allies and rights groups accuse him of weakening basic rights and democracy in the country.
Muharrem Ince, 54, is the CHP’s candidate and has been a deputy with the party since 2002. He acted as the CHP’s parliamentary group deputy chairman between 2010 and 2014. He has been a fierce critic of Erdogan and his party’s policies.
Ince has vowed to create a new constitution, which will, he says, reinstall a strong parliamentary system with a strong sense of democracy and the rule of law, provided that he is elected president. He has also promised a “free, scientific, secular and democratic” educational system.
Meral Aksener, 61, is a popular nationalist politician leading a young right-wing party, IYI Party. In the past, she served as minister of the interior and was a vice-speaker of the parliament.
She was sacked from the MHP, her previous party, after challenging the head of the party Devlet Bahceli for leadership and disagreeing with his support for Erdogan. She has promised to reinstate the parliamentary system and remove the state of emergency, if she is elected. She would be the first female president of Turkey.
Selahattin Demirtas, 45, the pro-Kurdish HDP’s imprisoned candidate, is the former co-leader of his party who took it to mainstream politics by appealing to the young liberal voters, scoring successes in general election of 2015.
In 2016, Demirtas was arrested along with other HDP MPs, accused of spreading propaganda for outlawed Kurdish fighters. He denies the claims. He has promised to pass most of his powers back to the parliament and change Turkey’s centralist system to a local democracy.