Millions of Turks on Sunday queued up to vote in parliamentary elections, which are likely to return the ruling Justice and Development Party to power.
If the ruling party — the AKP in Turkish — wins by a two-third majority, it will allow Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan to carry forward his so-far successful experiment of promoting a liberal democracy that supports capitalism and Islamic social values.
Mr. Erodogan has already stated his intent to re-write the Turkish Constitution — written under the influence of the military, which had mounted a coup in 1980. For that to happen, the AKP would have to get 367 seats in the 550-member Parliament. Out of a 74-million population, Turkey has 50 million eligible voters.
“We have spoken, and now it is time for the people to speak,” said Mr. Erdogan in Istanbul. Mr. Erdogan exuded confidence, partly on account of the impressive performance of the economy during his two tenures in office, which began in 2003. Unemployment has dropped from 14.5 per cent in March last year to 11.5 per cent despite the slowdown in the global economy. The economy grew by an impressive near nine per cent over the last year, second only to China among the G-20 group of nations.
During the AKP's tenure a religiously conservative business elite that largely supports the party has cropped up in Anatolia, which is part of the erstwhile poorly developed Asiatic part of Turkey.
The government's foreign policy has also enhanced its popular appeal.
Sunday's elections are expected to strengthen Turkey's civilian institutions, which are likely to better insulate the elected political class from the military, notorious for mounting coup de tats. The AKP's main rival, the secular Republican People's Party (CHP), is also re-inventing itself. It is shedding its image of being a supporter of military intervention in politics, and casting itself on the lines of a European social democratic party. It is being led by Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who is supported by an emerging youthful party leadership.