Turks begin voting for a new parliament on Sunday with the ruling center-right AK Party widely tipped to win a fresh four-year mandate.
Here are some short portraits of Turkey's leading politicians: PRIME MINISTER TAYYIP ERDOGAN - Erdoğan, 57, is the AK Party leader and Turkey's most popular and charismatic politician. He has presided over strong economic growth and the historic launch of European Union membership talks since becoming premier in early 2003. But he is deeply distrusted by Turkey's secular elite because of his Islamist past. A former mayor of Istanbul, he served a short jail sentence in 1999 for reading a poem deemed too Islamist at a public rally. His wife Emine wears the Muslim headscarf. A pious Muslim, the father of four is known for his love of soccer. AK party won 47 percent of votes in 2007 elections, increasing its share from 34 percent in 2002.
Erdoğan's 2011 election campaign focused on his government's economic achievements and its ambitions for Turkey to become one of the top 10 economies by 2023, the 100th anniversary of the republic, and boost its GDP per capita to $25,000 from $10,079 in 2010. He has promised to overhaul Turkey's constitution, written in the 1980s under military tutelage after a coup, if his party wins a strong mandate in the June 12 vote. FOREIGN MINISTER AHMET DAVUTOGLU - Davutoğlu, 52, is the architect of Turkey's "zero problems with neighbors" policy, which he explains as aiming to maximize cooperation and minimize problems with neighboring countries in order to bolster Turkey's role as a global and regional player.
As part of Davutoğlu's policy, Turkey has moved to resolve long-standing tensions with Armenia, Cyprus, Syria and Greece.
But efforts to improve relationships with Iran and Syria, and a falling out with erstwhile ally Israel, have raised concern in the West over a perceived shift of axis in foreign policy.
Foreign Policy magazine ranked Davutoğlu, a professor of political science, No. 7 in a list of "100 Global Thinkers" in 2010, saying that under his leadership, "Turkey has assumed an international role not matched since a sultan sat in Istanbul's Topkapi Palace." ECONOMY MINISTER ALI BABACAN - Babacan, 44, is a founder member of the AK Party. He is regarded as one of the few cabinet ministers who have the ear of Erdoğan. Babacan is respected for his commitment to fiscal discipline and his efforts to convince Erdoğan to carry out economic and structural reforms. He first served as economy minister between 2002-2007, leading Turkey through a period of buoyant economic growth after a severe domestic financial crisis. He then became foreign minister. Babacan impressed markets with his flexibility and successful dealings with the International Monetary Fund, and Erdoğan brought him back as economy minister in 2009 to take over protracted negotiations with the International Monetary Fund. These were concluded in early 2010 when Turkey said it did not need a new standby loan agreement. Babacan presented a medium-term economic program in 2009 setting expenditure guidelines and looking to improve Turkey's debt dynamics. Turkey was subsequently rewarded with upgrades to its sovereign debt by all major ratings agencies, although it is still rated below investment grade. CHP LEADER KEMAL KILICDAROGLU - Kılıçdaroğlu, 63, is the leader of the secularist Republican People's Party (CHP), the main opposition party which was established by the founder of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, in 1923. Kılıçdaroğlu is leading the CHP for the first time in a parliamentary election after taking over the party leadership from Deniz Baykal last year. Baykal resigned after 18 years over a sex tape scandal. The CHP won 21 percent of the vote to take 112 seats in 2007, down from 23.2 percent of the vote in 2002.
Kılıçdaroğlu worked for the ministry of finance as an account specialist in his early career, followed by positions at the social security organization and ministry of labor. He was elected as an MP from the CHP for Istanbul province in the 2002 election and once again in 2007. Kılıçdaroğlu proposes a free judiciary, a democratic new constitution, the removal of a 10 percent election threshold for parties, and a change in the political parties law. He targets 7 percent economic growth, creating 800,000 jobs annually, zero-interest loans for small and medium-sized enterprises, and family insurance for low income families with a 600 lira ($377.4) monthly payment. He is married with three children. MHP LEADER DEVLET BAHCELI - Bahçeli, 63, heads the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP)
Long active in far-right politics, the former economist moderated his tone after taking his party into a 1999-2002 coalition government, serving as deputy prime minister. After failing to win any seats in the 2002 election, the MHP polled 14.27 percent in 2007 and gained 71 seats
Bahçeli's party program proposals include 7 percent economic growth, 700,000 new jobs annually, $14,000 GDP per capita, and a constitution based on social compromise between 2011 and 2015.
Bahçeli has used nationalist rhetoric, underlining unity and one state, refusing any constitutional changes that could lead to a structure based on different ethnic identities.
Ten senior members of MHP resigned in the run-up to the elections over a video blackmail scandal, raising doubts whether the party could get enough votes to exceed the 10 percent electoral threshold on June 12. BDP REPRESENTATIVE SELAHATTIN DEMIRTAS - Demirtaş, 38, former co-leader of the Peace and Democracy Party (BDP), is a pro-Kurdish politician running as an independent candidate in the eastern province of Hakkari.
Demirtaş was elected as an MP for Diyarbakir for the Democratic Society Party (DTP) in 2007. The DTP was re-formed as the BDP after it was banned by the country's top court in December 2009 for links with the PKK terrorist organization, the main militant group in an insurgency that began in the 1980s. More than 40,000 people have been killed in the conflict,
The BDP launched a campaign of civil disobedience in March, apparently supported by jailed PKK leader Abdullah Öcalan, held in an island prison south of Istanbul since his capture in 1999
The BDP says its goals are to secure education in Kurdish, the lowering of a threshold which prevents the main Kurdish party from entering parliament, the release of political prisoners and an end to military operations against the PKK. Ultimately, the BDP wants autonomy for mainly Kurdish provinces. But the central issue for the BDP is the use of Kurdish language in public life. The BDP will have its candidates run as independents in the parliamentary elections on June 12 to circumvent the 10 percent electoral threshold.