ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — As Turkey’s president, Tayyip Recep Erdogan is supposed to be the invisible man in the upcoming general election, constitutionally bound to remain above the fray. Instead, it’s been all about him.
The overarching drama of the election has been whether Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, or AKP, will win a strong enough majority to change the constitution and put Erdogan at the unquestioned pinnacle of Turkish politics in a new presidential system.
But the chances of an AKP landslide appear to be fading, and the surge of the country’s main Kurdish party could effectively block the 61-year-old Erdogan from achieving his ambitions. If the pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party, or HDP, reaches the threshold of 10 percent of the total vote required to take seats in parliament as a party, it would likely make it impossible for AKP to reach the supermajority in parliament required to call a referendum on constitutional change.
Erdogan took a big gamble when he announced last year that he would seek the presidency in the country’s first direct vote for the largely ceremonial post, rather than lead his party into the election as premier. He bet that after moving into the presidential palace, he could then make the position powerful with an expanded majority in parliament. That now looks to have been a rare miscalculation for a man who has dominated Turkish politics since his party came into power in 2002.
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