| ANKARA, June 6
ANKARA, June 6 Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip
Erdogan is expected to easily win a third consecutive term of
single-party rule in a parliamentary election on June 12.
Under Erdogan's AK Party, in power since 2002,
overwhelmingly Muslim Turkey has become one of the world's
fastest growing economies and a powerhouse in the region, while
it has also opened negotiations to join the European Union.
With Turks poised to return Erdogan to power as they enjoy
rising living standards and new-found confidence, the only
unknown hanging over the vote is the margin of victory.
But the outcome will have wide repercussions for this
important country of 74 million people straddling East and West.
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If AK, which emerged from banned Islamist parties, wins a
two-thirds majority it would allow Erdogan to unilaterally push
through a planned new constitution. There is talk Erdogan wants
a more presidential system and that he covets the presidency.
The opposition accuses AK of wanting to monopolise power and
says that while Turkey's constitution needs reform, a new
charter without input from other parties would be simply an AK
version of democracy and would concentrate too much control in
Below are the most likely scenarios from the June 12 vote.
AK PARTY WINS "SUPERMAJORITY"
If AK wins a "supermajority" of 367 seats or more in the
550-seat legislature, it could push constitutional reforms
through parliament without calling a referendum.
Polls show support for the AK at 45-50 percent, compared to
the 46.6 percent it won in 2007. AK currently has 331 seats.
AK, which has clipped the powers of the army and overhauled
the judiciary, would have no hindrances in drafting a new
constitution, possibly with enhanced presidential powers.
Erdogan says a new charter to replace one drafted after a
military coup in 1980 will bolster democracy and pluralism and
bring Turkey closer to the EU.
Critics accuse Erdogan of showing authoritarian tendencies.
They cite as examples the detention of scores of journalists in
a spiralling investigation into an alleged anti-government
militant network, and the use of tax authorities as a weapon to
cow a critical media group.
Under party laws, Erdogan cannot run again as prime minister
There are two factors that could determine whether the AK
wins the supermajority.
The first is whether the far-right Nationalist Movement
Party (MHP), Turkey's third largest party, can reach the 10
percent threshold a party needs to take seats in parliament.
A sex video scandal led to the resignation of 10 senior MHP
members, and threw the party into disarray. Erdogan has courted
MHP voters by adopting a more nationalist message.
If the MHP can't take its seats in parliament they will be
carved up by the other parties on a proportional basis.
AK stands to gain the most.
A second factor will be how many seats the pro-Kurdish Peace
and Democracy Party (BDP) wins in the mainly Kurdish southeast.
A strong BDP showing could deny the AK a two-thirds majority.
Erdogan took a risk in 2009 by announcing an initiative to
increase Kurds' cultural and political rights, but his failure
to sustain reforms in the face of opposition from nationalists
could boost the BDP. Polls show support for BDP at 25-30 seats,
up from the 19 seats a defunct pro-Kurdish party won in 2007.
Market impact: AK is regarded as the most investor-friendly
party for its past reforms. But too big a majority might get a
cool reception from investors, concerned about the direction of
the country under a victorious AK with no checks and balances.
Bonds, lira and stocks might even weaken in the short term.
AK PARTY WINS, BUT NO "SUPERMAJORITY"
If AK wins less than 367 seats but more than 330, parliament
can still approve constitutional changes but they would need to
be ratified by a popular vote. Less than 330 seats would require
AK to seek support of other political parties, possibly Kurds,
or drop its plans to change the constitution.
A referendum on a new charter with a presidential system
would trigger a vigorous debate and would polarise Turkey even
more, especially if the opposition gains strength. Surveys put
support for the main opposition party, the Republican People's
Party (CHP) at 25-30 percent, up from 21 percent in 2007.
The CHP says Turkey needs to modernise its constitution, but
is deeply suspicious of Erdogan and AK for its Islamist past.
Kurdish nationalists want a redefinition of Turkish
citizenship in a new charter, which could provoke a backlash
from nationalists within the AK and outside the party.
Any attempt to amend the first four clauses of the
constitution -- which describe Turkey as a secular state
envisioned by founder Kemal Ataturk -- would galvanise
secularists, who in 2008 organised mass protests against AK's
attempt to lift a ban on headscarves at university.
Market impact: Such an outcome would probably give markets a
lift in the short-term, as it would mean another four years of
single-party government but at the same time force AK to seek
wider consensus for its constitutional reforms. Investors
believe this could lessen the chances of ideological conflict.
Failure to win a "supermajority" might also convince AK that it
needs to focus more on structural reforms in the economy to
sustain economic growth and shore up support.
There is some concern that the government might neglect
other policy issues if it gives constitutional reform priority.
Despite strong GDP growth Turkey's economy is not without
challenges: the current account deficit is ballooning,
foreigners are cutting Turkish debt and currency exposure,
fiscal policy needs tightening to cool overheating and youth
unemployment is high for a country where the average age is 28.
(Editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)