Turkish voters will make a fateful choice in tomorrow's parliamentary elections on the future of their political system and constitutional freedoms. The main issue in the campaign is whether the ruling Justice and Development (AK) party will have enough seats to give Turkey an executive presidential system like those in France, the US – or Russia. President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and his party strongly favour the change but their opponents fear it would irreversibly reinforce his authoritarian rule and policies.
The AK party will dominate the new parliament, continuing its phenomenal series of victories led by Erdogan since 2001. A reforming Islamist movement, drawing its major support from the country's Anatolian heartland, it has presided over a remarkable economic transformation and a radical shake-up of Turkey's traditional military and institutional scene. In the past two years that picture has changed. The economy stuttered, protests and media were repressed and Erdogan became more domineering.
Attention is concentrated on a new left-wing Peoples' Democratic Party based primarily on the Kurdish minority and led by an attractive lawyer, Selahattin Demirtas. If it can win 10 per cent or more of the national vote it will secure enough seats to enter parliament and deny the AK the constitutional super-majority it needs to change the presidential system. It is appealing to disenchanted secular and left-wing Turks worried about Erdogan's ambitions but must convince them it has distanced itself from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party which has conducted a long military campaign against the state for independence.
The progressive changes brought to Turkey by the Erdogan’s AK party are endangered by his search for more power and a ruthless determination to secure it. Rather than making this lurch towards an authoritarian system Turkish voters would be better advised to limit these ambitions and create the opportunity for a more diversified politics to emerge. That would better suit its vibrant and modernising society.