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Davutoglu promises 'a new Turkey' in giant Istanbul rally

Opinion polls put the ruling AK party on anything from 38-47 percent of the vote of Turkey's legislative election in three weeks
Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu and his wife Sare Davutoglu greet the crowd during an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey on 17 May, 2015 (AA)

Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on Sunday hosted the biggest rally yet of Turkey's legislative election campaign, as the ruling party battles three weeks ahead of the polls to maintain its total dominance of politics.

Tens of thousands of people filled the gigantic outdoor arena in the Maltepe district of Istanbul on the Sea of Marmara to hear Davutoglu, who said only the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) could be trusted with Turkey's future in the 7 June polls.

"Dear Istanbul are you with us? Are you behind us?" shouted Davutoglu, his voice hoarse from campaigning in over 40 cities.

"On June 7, is there going to be a new Turkey?" he said, as the crowds roared their approval.

"They (the opposition) talk. The AKP acts," he said, repeating his party's main election slogan.

Davutoglu, the former foreign minister, became premier and AKP leader when Recep Tayyip Erdogan moved to the presidency in August last year after over a decade as prime minister.

He is under huge pressure to show his political mettle in the polls, the first election battle where the Islamic-rooted AKP has not been led by Erdogan since it first came to power in 2002.

Criticised by some for lacking Erdogan's charisma, Davutoglu arrived in rock star-style fashion, circling the crowds in his helicopter before landing nearby.

"We are watching history, we are writing history," Davutoglu said in live comments from the helicopter broadcast to the crowd before landing.

Speaking in front of a giant picture of himself under the slogan "Stronger Together", Davutoglu spoke from a long catwalk platform that jutted out from the stage, throwing out flowers.

At the end, loudspeakers blared the election song written for Davutoglu, "Ahmet Hoca" ("Ahmet the Teacher"), in reference to his academic background.  

People hold a giant poster of Turkey's Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu as he attends an election rally in Istanbul, Turkey on 17 May, 2015 (AA)

Erdogan had used the same venue for his final major rally before his triumphant August 2014 presidential election.

Opinion polls can vary widely in Turkey, with the latest surveys putting the AKP on anything from 38-47 percent of the vote.

The AKP scored almost 50 percent of the vote in the 2011 polls and 46.5 in 2007 under Erdogan.

Erdogan wants the AKP to win a two-thirds majority in seats to change the constitution to a presidential system and enshrine his status as the Turkish number one, a goal analysts say could prove hard to achieve.

Another option is to win a three-fifths majority which would be sufficient to call a referendum on the issue.

A major factor will be whether the pro-Kurdish People's Democratic Party (HDP) wins enough votes to break the steep 10 percent threshold needed to take seats in parliament.

Polls predict that the secular opposition Republican People's Party (CHP) will come second, followed by the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) and the HDP in fourth.

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