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President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s campaign posters read “Great Turkey wants a strong leader”, flying above election banners for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) he chairs, Galata Bridge, Istanbul, June 2018. © 2018 Human Rights Watch
(Istanbul)— Turkey’s snap presidential and parliamentary elections on June 24, 2018, will take place under a state of emergency and will bring in a new presidential system whatever the outcome, Human Rights Watch said today in releasing a question-and-answer document.

The document looks at the context in which the elections are taking place, the impact of the changes to the electoral law, and the implications of the new constitutional arrangements.

“It’s important to understand the context in which Turkey’s elections are being held and the consequences for the constitution of the new presidential system that will take effect whoever wins,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “The right to elect their chosen candidates and parties in a credible, fair, and democratic process is key to protecting the human rights of all voters, and that requires a fair campaign in which all parties and candidates have a reasonable opportunity to present their ideas to the electorate.”

President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) are seeking to renew their electoral mandate. Opposition party candidates are running for both the presidency and parliament but in a difficult climate.

The government has placed unprecedented restrictions on independent media over the past two years and has near total control over television news after the recent takeover of private television channels by a government-loyal holding company, and there is evidence that opposition parties receive much less airtime on broadcast media. The opposition Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) faces the most obstacles, with its presidential candidate and several members of parliament competing in the elections from prison, facing politically motivated criminal charges.

Whatever the outcome, an executive presidential system of governance will fully enter into force following the elections. This new system was narrowly approved by voters in an April 2017 referendum. It will greatly increase the powers of the president and reduce the role of Turkey’s parliament.

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