Turks vote as PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks third term


People in Turkey have voted in a general election, with Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan expected to win a third term in office.

Mr Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) are hoping for two-thirds of the seats in parliament so they can amend the constitution.

The PM has promised that the amendments will include basic rights but has provided few details.

The main challenger is the secular Republican People's Party (CHP).

It is fielding a large number of younger candidates in an attempt to improve its appeal.

The AKP, which has Islamist roots, has presided over strong economic growth and a more assertive foreign policy during its eight years in power.

New constitution

It has also seen unemployment fall - down to 11.5% in March from 14.4% in the same period last year. The country is a member of Nato as well as a candidate for membership of the European Union.

The AKP has put its economic record at the centre of its campaign, promising an ambitious programme of new construction if elected.
BBC graphic

Projects include a canal from the Black Sea to the Aegean, a new city outside Istanbul and new bridges, airports and hospitals.

Casting his vote in Istanbul on Sunday, Mr Erdogan said he hoped the election would "contribute to strengthening of peace, rights and freedoms".

If he maintains his party's position with more than 330 of the 550 seats he will be able to amend the current military-backed constitution without consulting the opposition, by putting it to a public referendum.

Some changes have already been made, after they were approved in a referendum last year.

However, a two-thirds majority - of at least 367 seats - would enable his party to pass the amendments unilaterally.

The BBC's Jonathan Head, in Istanbul, says the party is relying heavily on the charisma of Mr Erdogan, who has proved a vote-winner in the past.

However Mr Erdogan's critics want him to try to build a consensus with the opposition over the constitution, something he has not done in the past, our correspondent adds.

Under its new leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the CHP has ditched its image as a supporter of military intervention in politics, and is presenting itself as a champion of European social democratic values.

Turkey is a member of Nato and is a candidate for membership of the European Union.

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