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Report: Turkey

Turkey's secular CHP fights 'authoritarian' President Erdogan

CHP campaigners, including Ungur Demirkan (c) in Istanbul's Besiktas district on Monday.
CHP campaigners, including Ungur Demirkan (c) in Istanbul's Besiktas district on Monday. Tony Cross/RFI

Turkey's second election this year, to be held on Sunday, is supposed to end a stalemate that arose from the failure of June's general election to give any party enough seats to govern. President Reccep Tayyip Erdogan's Islamist Justice and Development Party (AKP) won the most votes last time round but faces vigourous opposition from three parties - the pro-Kurd HDP, the right-wing secular MHP and the more left-wing secular CHP. They accuse Erdogan of becoming increasingly authoritarian and are looking for allies to force the AKP out of government.

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Campaiging for the CHP in Istanbul's Besiktas district, Ugur Demirkan, who is vice-president of the party's youth section there, accuses the president of ending the rule of law for political ends.

"Now there is no jurisdiction," he says as stirring music blasts from loudspeakers and activists from rival parties man their own stands nearby. "There is no real police ... It's more like hunger for power."

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Since June's election, the AKP has broken off peace negotiations with the the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and launched an offensive against the separatist guerrilla movement, resulting in near-insurrection in the east of the country.

And two peace rallies were bombed, causing over 150 deaths.

Those attacks were claimed by the Islamic State armed group (IS), which the government is supposed to be fighting alongside the West in Iraq and Syria.

Seven IS members and two police officers were killed in a shootout in the eastern city of Diyarbakir on Monday.

Political analyst Koray Caliskan, a professor at Istanbul's Bogazici University and strong critic of Erdogan, believes the president has encouraged violence in the belief that it will boost AKP support at the polls.

"Reccep Tayyip Erdogan and AK party are producing chaos by using two instruments," he comments. "First, they renewed the war against PKK. Second, they indirectly, by not making the state work effectively, created a security vacuum in the country, which is filled by Islamic State."

Professor Koray Caliskan.
Professor Koray Caliskan. Tony Cross/RFI

Opinion polls show no clear winner again in Sunday's election.

The CHP would like to form a coalition with the MHP, as it tried to do last time.

But there is no guarantee that will work.

If it does not, former CHP MP Onur Öymen believes that the right-wing nationalists could be tempted to join an AKP-led coalition.

"I believe that it is politically possible because, to tell the truth, what's in common between AKP and MHP is much more visible than what's in common between MHP and the CHP," he says.

Yet, there is a third alternative, according to Caliskan.

"There are a lot of secular, right-wing politicians in the AK party, who think they don't deserve such an authoritarian attitude [on the part of Erdogan] and they don't deserve such criticism from wider society," he says, predicting that the AKP could break up.

A new party that splits from the AKP could form a government with one or more of the secular parties, Caliskan predicts.

"Turkey is a great country with an established democracy," he insists. "I believe these problems are going to be written [about] by historians with their solutions that are taking place right now."

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