In the general election to be held on June 12th 2011 we expect the AKP to win a clear majority in the 550-seat parliament, but less than two-thirds of the seats, the special majority needed to change the constitution without opposition support or a referendum. However, the composition of the next parliament and the distribution of seats will depend largely on how many political parties get over the threshold of 10% of the national vote required for political party representation in parliament. A major factor in this regard will be the performance of the MHP. Recent opinion polls suggest that its support is dangerously close to 10%. If the MHP fails to reach the threshold, the AKP might manage to obtain a two-thirds majority.
The new CHP leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, who was elected in May 2010, is seeking to transform his party into a credible alternative to the AKP in government. However, the CHP has been beset by internal divisions and Mr Kilicdaroglu's control over the party has been fragile, despite successfully rejuvenating the executive in December 2010. It will be a tough challenge to persuade voters that the party has moved away from its traditionally hardline secularist/nationalist policy agenda to a more liberal stance on democratic reforms to improve the protection of minority rights, promote freedom of expression and exclude the military from politics. The AKP's trump card will be the perception that since first coming to power in 2002 it has managed the economy well.
During the forecast period Turkey will elect a head of state by universal direct suffrage for the first time. However, uncertainty exists regarding the timing of the election. In August 2007 parliament elected the current president, Abdullah Gul, for a single seven-year term. Subsequent constitutional changes introducing the direct election of the president also reduced the presidential term to five years, for a maximum of two terms. Under Turkey's current parliamentary system, the powers of the president are limited. However, the election will be fiercely contested. As happened in 2007, it is likely to become a battleground in the power struggle between the AKP and the secularist/nationalist elite. If the AKP were to introduce a presidential system, Mr Erdogan would probably be the front-runner to replace Mr Gul.