On 20th January 2012, Turkey’s parliament passed a law, legislating the new rules and procedures by which Turkey’s next head of state would be elected. Accordingly, Turkey’s next head of state will be elected by popular vote in lieu of the parliament for the first time since modern Turkey was founded, making the forthcoming presidential elections on 10th August 2014 – when Abdullah Gul’s seven-tear term comes to an end – ever more significant. Given the popular vote mandate, that the presidency already has many dormant powers and that the next president is likely to be the current Prime Minister Erdogan, it is highly probable that following the elections there will be a significant redistribution of power between the presidency, the prime minister’s office and parliament impacting Turkey’s ‘separation of powers’ even further and altering the dynamics of Turkey’s executive decision making process.
Given that Turkey’s next president will be elected by popular vote, the current presidential elections are taking on a character very reminiscent of the US presidential elections with candidates being able to accept personal donations for their campaigns with the caveat that an individual donor cannot donate more than 8,259TL (approximately £2,300) per candidate. What is dissimilar however from the US presidential elections is that the electorate are being denied the valued opportunity of a presidential debate. Two of the candidates have publicly expressed their willingness to take part in such a debate while Prime Minister Erdogan has remained quiet on the issue.
The election of Turkey’s next president by popular vote will mean:
- Greater political legitimacy alongside with a number of constitutional rights and responsibilities
- A more active role in both domestic politics and foreign policy
- Political mandate to deliver on election promises Larger representative capacity of public
- More powerful role in ensuring good working relations between state bodies
- Main representative figure of country abroad
For the forthcoming presidential elections on 10th August there are three candidates: PM Erdogan, AK Party’s candidate; Ekmeledddin Ihsanoglu, Secretary-General of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) from 2004 to 2014 and joint candidate of Turkey’s two main opposition parties – the Republican Peoples Party and Nationalist Movement Party – as well as nine smaller political parties from the various ends of the political spectrum; and Selahattin Demirtas, the Turkish/Kurdish candidate of the Peoples` Democratic Party with the support of seven other political parties from the left.
So far, the campaign has been marred by the inequality of media coverage provided for the three candidates. For example, between 14th and 20th July, the campaign coverage time allocated for the three candidates on the country’s state news channel (TRT) was as follows: Erdogan – 8 hours; Ihsanoglu – 3 hours and Demirtas 1.5 hours. The inequality was even higher in the earlier weeks of the official campaign period.
The first round of the elections is on 10th August. Any candidate that receives 50 per cent or more of the vote on this round will win the elections. If none of the candidates do then the second round of elections will be held on 24th August, which will be decided by whichever candidate achieves the highest vote.