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Last Updated: Friday, 20 July 2007, 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK
Q&A: Your questions on Turkey election
Turkish army chief Gen Yasar Buyukanit (left) meets PM Recep Tayyip Erdogan (archive image)
There have been tensions between the Turkish army and the governing party
Sunday's general election in Turkey follows months of tension between the governing AK Party, which has Islamic roots, and the secularist opposition.

The poll was called to break a deadlock over constitutional reforms proposed by the AKP - including direct election of the president by the people rather than by parliament. Here, the BBC's Sarah Rainsford in Ankara answers your questions on the vote.

Q: Who is the most likely to win Sunday's poll? How will the result affect Turkey in economic, social, modern and secular aspects?
Ahmet, Sydney, Australia

The AKP is most likely to win the most votes on Sunday - some opinion polls give it more than 40%. What's less clear is whether that translates into enough seats in parliament for the party to govern alone.

Any party must collect 10% of the vote nationwide to enter parliament. Only two parties managed that at the last election, handing the AKP control of the assembly.

The opposition CHP and secular establishment have cast this election as a referendum on how Islamic Turkey will be. They claim the AKP, whose leaders once belonged to a pro-Islamic party, represents a threat to the strictly secular Turkish Republic.

The AKP denies that - and points to its record since 2002. It has overseen a series of democratic reforms.

What bothers less religious Turks though - particularly the urban, Westernised elite - is that a country ruled by devout Muslims will inevitably begin to change around the edges. Above all they're worried for their lifestyle.

Q: Do you think these elections will be peaceful? Does Turkey have a history of peaceful elections?
Katie Lynch, Toronto, Canada

Past experience suggests this election is likely to be peaceful.

However it does take place in the shadow of renewed clashes in the south-east of the country between the Kurdish separatist PKK and Turkish troops.

Q: The opposition parties have tried to come together and form a united front against the governing AK Party. Do you think they have a good chance of succeeding on Sunday?
Jalal Ud Din, Islamabad, Pakistan

Gunduz Aktan, MHP candidate, and supporters
The MHP opposition said Kurdish candidates are just a front
The opposition here remains very much divided. The main centre-left CHP did manage to unite with a smaller party, but that's unlikely to have a significant impact on the results.

What might have affected things was a planned merger on the right wing. Two parties - the DYP and Anap - were expected to enter parliament together. But the alliance collapsed in a squabbling mess.

The most common complaint about the CHP is its failure to offer convincing alternatives or new ideas. Its campaign has largely been based on warnings of a joint threat - to the secular system and to security - from the Kurdish separatist PKK.

It's the MHP nationalist opposition party that most believe likely to gain votes this time - on a platform strong on security and deeply sceptical of the EU. That will affect the flavour of Turkish politics to come.

Q: Will Turkey's chances of joining the EU be damaged if the AKP is re-elected?
Aran Hawker, Bodrum, Turkey

Some EU members are clearly unhappy with the idea of Turkish membership. French President Sarkozy has made it quite clear that he does not believe Turkey belongs in Europe. Others talk of privileged partnership or other alternatives to the full deal.

There's a growing feeling here in Turkey that a "Christian club" is no longer ready to accept a Muslim country as member.

If so, the re-election of a pious party to power here might be a further obstacle.

But of all the parties running, it is the AKP whose manifesto is most pro-EU. Since the party was first elected in 2002 it has overseen wide-ranging democratic reforms and was instrumental in getting EU accession talks started.

It's been a very bumpy ride since then and talks almost ground to a halt in a dispute over Cyprus.

Some here see the slow progress as a sign the AKP is not truly committed to the reform process.

In that atmosphere, EU accession has not featured prominently in any party's campaign, though the AKP has pledged to speed-up reforms after the election, should it win.

Q: If most Turkish men and women support a modern outlook towards life, then why was the religious conservative AK Party elected in the first place?
Ankur Pandey, Kochi, India

AKP won widespread support at the last election - not just from religious conservatives - but from an electorate fed-up with corruption, economic instability and in-fighting among the same old faces. The AKP had a clean-sheet. It was a new start.

The protest vote was so strong that none of the parties in the previous coalition government even made it into parliament.

So the AKP was not elected specifically for its Islamist roots. In fact, it cast itself very much as a break with that.

But you only have to head into Anatolia to see that Turkey is by and large a religious conservative country. Those people were happy to have like-minded politicians to represent them.

Q: With the Kurds standing to win 30 seats in parliament, does this mean they could have an influence on who forms the next government after the election?
Symon, Denmark

The pro-Kurdish candidates are standing as independents to bypass the 10% threshold for political parties. If they win more than 20 seats, they have the right to form a party group in parliament. This would be the DTP.

A party needs to hold 50% of seats in parliament plus one to form a government alone. If the AKP fails to win that many seats, it could team-up with the DTP in theory.

Most analysts believe that unlikely.

The DTP has close ties to the outlawed PKK - the relationship is rather like that between Sinn Fein and IRA. So any such alliance would open-up the AKP to controversy.

Pro-Kurdish Hasip Kaplan campaigners
Pro-Kurdish politicians are launching a new peaceful offensive
The presence of the nationalist MHP in parliament would make such a coalition even harder.

However the DTP may well play a role in deciding the Presidential election that follows. Unless it controls two thirds of all seats in parliament, the AKP might need DTP support to get its candidate elected President. Again that would not be without controversy in the current climate.

Q: Is Turkey's human rights record improving?
Neil Urban, Aberdeen, Scotland

Yes, major reforms in recent years have significantly reduced complaints of human rights abuses, particularly in the area of torture and ill-treatment. But human rights groups say there is still room for improvement.

Human Rights Watch released a report this week in which it underlined continuing restrictions on free speech and impunity for state security officials accused of serious human rights violations in particular.

There is also concern about a new police law, that could be open to abuse. Most see the EU accession process as a crucial anchor to keeping important human rights reforms and improvements on track.

Q: In response to your article, I understand that gender equality is not perfect in Turkey. But I do not understand your negative approach to the subject. Gender equality does not mean gender balance in politics. Your article, I feel, undermines the developments in Turkey, on the eve of elections. What is your response?
Murat Yildiz, Ankara, Turkey

Turkey has fewer women in parliament now than it did when women first got the vote and the right to be elected in the 1930s.

For women's' groups here that is a major issue - and an unacceptable inequality. So earlier this year, a campaign was launched to persuade Turkey's political parties to include more women candidates on their election lists.

That is likely to mean that a record number of women will make it to the next parliament - possibly as high as 10%. Women's groups here - and the female candidates themselves - say that is crucial.

They acknowledge that huge strides have been made in improving legislation in recent years to ensure gender equality, stimulated in part by the EU accession process.

The male is no longer the official head of the household, the concept of honour is no longer a defence against murder in Turkish courts.

However many of the reforms still have not made it off paper, and into practice. And there is still a good deal of work to be done. Turkish women want to have equal say in making that happen - and ensuring the changes are implemented in practice.


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