April 19, 2015 / 2:18 PM / in 3 years

Main Turkish opposition in election vow to boost economy, democracy

ISTANBUL (Reuters) - Turkey’s main opposition promised on Sunday to revitalize a flagging economy and boost democracy in an election manifesto which accused the ruling AK Party of polarizing the country and leaving millions in poverty during its 13 years in power.

Turkey's main opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) Leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu addresses his party MPs during a meeting at the Turkish parliament in Ankara April 8, 2014. REUTERS/Umit Bektas

The AK Party is expected to win the June 7 parliamentary election comfortably, but uncertainty over whether it will gain enough support to change the constitution and boost the powers of President Tayyip Erdogan has recently unnerved investors.

Erdogan says an executive presidency would accelerate decision making in Turkey, while critics argue it would fuel what they see as his growing authoritarianism.

Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu pledged instead to strengthen the parliamentary system, saying the government had undermined the separation of powers, media freedom and EU candidate Turkey’s foreign relations.

“We will continue on our path, strengthening our parliamentary experience,” he said in a speech which also highlighted the slowing economy and rising unemployment. It was punctuated by chants of ‘Prime Minister Kemal’ from the party faithful.

“Turkey is unable to achieve growth or development. Wealth is not distributed in a just way. We have to rescue Turkey from the middle income trap,” he said in the capital Ankara.

Economic growth fell to 2.9 percent in 2014 from 4.2 a year earlier and the lira is down 12 percent versus the dollar this year - sources of concern acknowledged by Erdogan, who referred on Saturday to a “temporary crisis in the economy”.

Kilicdaroglu promised to boost welfare and incomes and said the social democratic CHP would focus on boosting value-added economic production and creating an information society.

Pollsters predict the AKP’s share of the vote will drop in the election from some 50 percent in 2011, a blow to Erdogan’s goal of strengthening his presidential powers.

The AKP is still forecast to be far ahead as the largest party with support in a range of some 42-48 percent, with the CHP expected to garner 23-28 percent.

The AKP manifesto, unveiled last week by Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu, pledged a new constitution paving the way to the presidential system.

Erdogan founded the right-wing, Islamist-rooted AKP in 2001 but had to step down as its leader when he won the presidency last August. The AKP would need at least 330 seats to change the constitution and 367 to do so without the need for a referendum.

Writing by Daren Butler; Editing by Mark Trevelyan

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