Turkey is a parliamentary representative democracy. Since its foundation as a republic in 1923, Turkey has developed a strong tradition of secularism.
Turkey's constitution governs the legal framework of the country. It sets out the main principles of government and establishes Turkey as a unitary centralized state.
The head of state is the President of the Republic and has a largely ceremonial role. The president is elected for a seven-year term by the parliament but is not required to be one of its members. The last President, Ahmet Necdet Sezer, was elected on May 16, 2000, after having served as the President of the Constitutional Court. He was succeeded on August 28, 2007 by Abdullah Gül. Executive power is exercised by the Prime Minister and the Council of Ministers which make up the government, while the legislative power is vested in the unicameral parliament, the Grand National
Assembly of Turkey. The judiciary is independent of the executive and the legislature, and the Constitutional Court is charged with ruling on the conformity of laws and decrees with the constitution. The Council of State is the tribunal of last resort for administrative cases, and the High Court of Appeals for all others.
The Prime Minister is elected by the parliament through a vote of confidence in his government and is most often the head of the party that has the most seats in parliament. The current Prime Minister is the former mayor of İstanbul, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose conservative AKP won an absolute majority of parliamentary seats in the 2002 general elections, organized in the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2001, with 34% of the suffrage.
In the 2007 general elections, AKP received 46.6% of the votes and could defend its majority in parliament.
Neither the Prime Minister nor the Ministers have to be members of the parliament, but in most cases they are (one notable exception was Kemal Derviş, the Minister of State in Charge of Economy following the financial crisis of 2001; he is currently the president of the United Nations Development Programme).
Universal suffrage for both sexes has been applied throughout Turkey since 1933, and every Turkish citizen who has turned 18 years of age has the right to vote. As of 2004, there were 50 registered political parties in the country, whose ideologies range from the far left to the far right. The Constitutional Court can strip the public financing of political parties that it deems anti-secular or separatist, or ban their existence altogether.
There are 550 members of parliament who are elected for a four-year term by a party-list proportional representation system from 85 electoral districts which represent the 81 administrative provinces of Turkey (İstanbul is divided into three electoral districts whereas Ankara and İzmir are divided into two each because of their large populations). To avoid a hung parliament and its excessive political fragmentation, only parties that win at least 10% of the votes cast in a national parliamentary election gain the right to representation in the parliament.
As a result of this threshold, the 2007 elections saw three parties formally entering parliament (compared to two in 2002).
However due to a system of alliances and independent candidatures, seven parties are currently represented in parliament. Independent candidates may run; however, they must also win at least 10% of the vote in their circonscription to be elected.