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Election approaching, Turkey’s Erdogan seeks to expand powers

Turkey heads to parliamentary elections Sunday, and Turkish President Erdogan wants his party to win at least 60 percent of the seats in order to change the constitution and grant executive-style powers to his office. Will millions endorse or stop his power play? Chief foreign correspondent Margaret Warner reports.

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  • JUDY WOODRUFF:

    In Turkey, at least two people are dead after a pair of explosions ripped through a Kurdish political rally. It happened in the mainly Kurdish city of Diyarbakir. More than 100 people are reported injured. An opposition leader is calling it an attack against his party and not an accident.

    The incidents come just two days before Turkey's election, when millions are expected to endorse or stop a power play attempt by the country's controversial leader.

    Our chief foreign affairs correspondent, Margaret Warner, explains.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    By law, he's not supposed to be campaigning, and his name isn't even on the ballot, but Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan looks and sounds a lot like a candidate.

  • PRESIDENT RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN, Turkey (through interpreter):

    God willing, the conquest will be on election day.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Turkey heads to parliamentary elections on Sunday, to choose among an alphabet soup of parties. Erdogan wants his own A.K. Party to win at least 60 percent of the seats, so it can move to change the constitution and grant executive-style powers to the presidency.

    But the energy of the new but the energy of the new HDP threatens that plan. A pro-Kurdish party that's now reaching out to women, gays and labor, it needs 10 percent of the vote to gain entry into parliament. That would make it hard for the AKP to win the 330 seats it seeks.

  • SELAHATTIN DEMIRTAS, Leader, HDP (through translator):

    People think that we're the only ones who can block Erdogan's stance of unlimited power and what he calls a presidency, but what we call dictatorship.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    The leading traditional opposition group, the Republican People's Party, or CHP, also charges Erdogan is threatening the country's democratic foundation.

  • KEMAL KILICDAROGLU, Leader, CHP:

    (through translator): The importance of these elections is democracy. Turkey will either move toward authoritarian rule or will opt for democracy.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    Indeed, Erdogan is already accused of trying to muzzle dissent, using intimidation of media outlets and speeches lashing out at journalists.

  • RECEP TAYYIP ERDOGAN (through interpreter):

    They are paid charlatans. They cannot endure the fact that you have a right to speak.

  • MARGARET WARNER:

    There's also widespread criticism of his costly building spree, including a 1,000-room palace complex in Ankara, while Turkey's economy is lagging, from 7 percent growth a decade ago to 3 percent expected this year.

    Also on voters' minds, the civil war in neighboring Syria that's sent nearly two million refugees into Turkey. The Erdogan government wants Syria's President Bashar al-Assad removed, but is at odds with the U.S. about how to make that happen. So far, the Turks have refused to let U.S. fighter jets use Incirlik Air Base to bomb Islamic State targets in Iraq and Syria.

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