PRIME Minister Turgut Ozal is expected to be elected president of Turkey today, after weeks of controversy. The conservative leader seems assured of winning the post during voting in the 450-seat National Assembly (the one-house parliament). Only a simple majority is required for the election and Mr. Ozal's Motherland Party commands 285 seats. A victory would make Ozal the second civilian president in Turkey's 66-year history.
The storm provoked by these elections will not calm after Ozal enters the presidential palace, say most foreign diplomats and Turkish political analysts. Some predict a period of political turmoil and uncertainty for the future.
The two major opposition political parties represented in parliament, the left-wing Social Democratic People's Party and the right-wing True Path Party, are boycotting the elections because they maintain that the Motherland Party has lost popular support.
Ozal's critics among the opposition parties as well as a large section of Turkish society claim that the Motherland Party no longer represents the majority and therefore its choice for president cannot be considered legitimate and valid. Ozal's party garnered only 21 percent of the vote in municipal elections this year and his support in public opinion polls has dropped to below 20 percent. The leaders of the two main parties have maintained in their campaign that a politician whose support is this low has no right to occupy the post of president of the nation.
Ozal realizes that the Motherland Party has been losing ground, mainly because of high inflation and unemployment, and that if early parliamentary elections (for which the opposition has been pressing hard) were to be held, the party might lose and the government collapse.
The opposition looks determined to fight till the end and their campaign could even hit the street. Such speculation leads to talk about a new military coup. But the high command of the armed forces recently repeated its determination not to interfere in politics and to respect democracy.
Ozal has made it clear that he personally will name his successor as prime minister, but only after he formally takes office as president on Nov. 9.
The presidency under the 1982 Constitution is a largely ceremonial post, with some powers and authority. A constitutional provision also demands that the president disengage himself from a political party and act as a nonpartisan leader of the whole nation.