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News Analysis: Turkey at crossroads in choosing new leader

English.news.cn   2014-07-08 17:07:53

ISTANBUL, July 8 (Xinhua) -- The upcoming presidential election will be crucial in determining the orientation of Turkey's political landscape, analysts here said Tuesday.

The balloting is scheduled for August 10, and if none of the candidates receive more than 50 percent of the votes, a second round will be held on Aug. 24.

Experts agreed that the presidential election will determine the future of the country's political life. Fierce competition is expected among the main candidates, incumbent Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ekmelleddin Ihsanoglu, a rather conservative candidate fielded jointly by the country's biggest opposition party, Republican People's Party (CHP), and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), and Selahattin Demirtas, leader of the pro-Kurdish Peoples' Democratic Party (HDP).

Erdogan heads the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).

According to a recent survey conducted by Metropoll, 47.9 percent those polled said that they would vote for Erdogan. Some 43.6 percent indicated they would cast their vote for Ihsanoglu. Demirtas got 4.9 percent.

Sinan Ogan, who heads the Center of International Relations and Strategic Analysis, told Xinhua that if Erdogan wins, he will likely adopt a discourse leading to greater polarization in society.

Ali Kose, an honorary head of Sociology Association, agreed saying Erdogan shows no signs that he is going to embrace all the people of Turkey.

"Erdogan gets most of his votes from the conservatives and religious people. He even decorated his speech in which he declared his presidential candidacy with too many religious motives," Kose said, adding "He thinks that he can win the election by consolidating his party's foundation which is based on religion."

If Erdogan is elected president, his tendency of ruling Turkey toward a more religious country will be strengthened, Kose said.

However, Sinan Ulgen, head of Center of Economy and Foreign Policy Studies, sees two possible scenarios for the Erdogan's presidential rule.

He said that Erdogan, whose influence is believed to be considerably weakened in the West especially in the wake the Gezi park resistance movement, could take measures to improve his image.

"He could take significant steps in solving the Kurdish and Cyprus issues in order to speed up improving relations with the West," he said.

In the second scenario, however, Erdogan might feel justified to conduct policy in a way to please his "religious" followers, Ulgen said, adding "Without considering the principles of participatory democracy he would dictate his policies to the rest of the society."

Ogan described Ihsanoglu as an opportunity for Turkey in replacing Erdogan.

"He knows the region and its people very well. He could play an important role in fixing Turkey's Middle East policy and develop good relations with Western countries based on common sense," Ogan told Xinhua.

Ihsanoglu's win could be a chance for Turkey to improve its image among Western countries, he said.

Many experts agree that if Erdogan wins the presidency, his AKP will face major difficulties in ensuring unity of the party.

Unless the country's current President Abdullah Gul becomes leader of the AKP, the probability of a fragmentation inside the party will increase, experts said.

According to Sinan Ulgen, one of Erdogan's most important duties after the election will be structuring his party's future. "Who is going to lead AKP? Apart from Abdullah Gul, there is no any candidate who has a supremacy."

Ali Kose, for his part, does not expect any radical fragmentation at the AKP.

"After Erdogan's possible victory, I don't give any probability that AKP will fall apart," Kose said. "It is always very difficult for people to leave something powerful."

Editor: Yang Yi
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