Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has called snap elections on June 24, moving the date up from November 2019 after a Wednesday meeting with ultra-nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli, leader of Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
The meeting between Erdoğan and Bahçeli at the presidential complex in Ankara lasted for half an hour, according to a presidential source. The two met a day after Bahçeli made a call to hold presidential and parliamentary elections earlier than the scheduled date, saying, “It has become too difficult to get to Nov. 3, 2019 with stability and equilibrium under the current circumstances, with Turkey suffocated by discussions about the administrative system.”
Addressing reporters during a news conference at the presidential complex, Erdoğan said recent developments in Turkey, including cross-border operations in Iraq and Syria and crises in neighboring countries have made it necessary for the country to overcome uncertainty.
“We are immediately launching the legal process [to hold early elections], and Turkey’s Supreme Election Board [YSK] will also start preparations for the elections as soon as possible,” Erdoğan said in a speech broadcast live on television.
“Even though the president and government are working in unison, the diseases of the old system confront us at every turn,” Erdogan said.
Erdoğan noted there was a necessity to immediately switch to a presidential system and that the issue had been discussed in detail among officials. “We have reached consensus among our colleagues to welcome the snap election proposal,” Erdoğan said.
Bahçeli had told MHP lawmakers that the presidential and parliamentary elections, which are due to be held at the same time next year, should in fact be held on August 26, 2018.
The comments surprised commentators since the Justice and Development Party (AKP) government has repeatedly insisted there would be no early elections.
Speaking at his party’s parliamentary group meeting, Bahçeli had said “Electing the president on Aug. 26 is the most rational and reasonable way forward.”
Bahçeli’s MHP and the ruling AKP supported a change to a presidential from a parliamentary system of governance in an April 2017 referendum, and the two parties formed an electoral alliance called the People’s Alliance after introducing a law in March allowing for the formation of election alliances.
As the ultra-nationalist MHP and the Islamist AKP led by President Erdoğan are in alliance for the upcoming elections, when the shift to an executive presidential system is due to go into effect, Bahçeli’s move prompted questions about whether his call was a joint decision of the alliance.
“A meeting between Justice Minister Abdulhamit Gül and Bahçeli was scheduled before the MHP leader’s call. It was interpreted as a meeting for the snap elections only after Bahçeli’s statements,” AKP spokesperson Mahir Ünal said on Wednesday in a televised interview on pro-government private broadcaster Habertürk TV.
“There isn’t any secret plan,” Ünal added, saying a decision concerning a snap election would be “made after bilateral assessments.” He stressed that “there isn’t any decision yet,” adding that the parties’ relevant bodies would discuss the issue following the leaders’ meeting. “Our president will meet with deputies on Thursday. The AKP has always been sensitive about elections being held on time,” Ünal said.
Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım on Wednesday said moves to hold planned early elections would start “immediately.” “The planned election process will start immediately. It should be submitted as a motion to Parliament. It will be ratified by the commission, and later will be debated by the full Parliament,” Yıldırım told reporters at Parliament in Ankara. “The process has officially started,” he said, adding that a bill for early elections would be submitted to the legislature today.
Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ on Wednesday said Turkey will enter a “new era” with the implementation of the presidential system after early elections planned on June 24. In a message posted on his official Twitter account, Bozdağ said: “Turkey on Sunday June 24, 2018 is heading for presidential and parliamentary elections. Turkey on June 24, 2018 will put the presidential system of governance into effect. On June 24, 2018 a new era will start.”
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu has vowed his party will declare victory in the parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, saying 2018 will be the year Turkey returns to democracy.
“We are ready for the elections. The statement of Erdoğan made shows that he will lose. The nation will get rid of them. 2018 will be the year for democracy. They will be given a lesson in democracy,” Kılıçdaroğlu told members of the CHP’s Central Executive Board (MYK) in a meeting on April 18.
The CHP said it formed an election committee to better prepare for early parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24. The committee is set to draft an election manifesto and announce it in the coming weeks. An issue CHP members reportedly discussed in the meeting was to decide on a presidential candidate without delay. Kılıçdaroğlu is one of the people expected to run for president.
The CHP called for an immediate end to emergency rule, which allows Erdoğan and the government to bypass Parliament in passing new laws and allows them to suspend rights and freedoms. “There cannot be an election under emergency rule,” CHP spokesman Bülent Tezcan said. “The country needs to be taken out of the emergency rule regime starting today.”
The United Nations last month called for an end to the emergency and accused Ankara of mass arrests, arbitrary sacking and other abuses. Some 160,000 people have been detained and a similar number of civil servants dismissed since the failed putsch, it said. Media outlets have been shut down and scores of journalists have also been jailed.
Meanwhile, nationalist İYİ Party leader Meral Akşener has vowed to run in Turkey’s early presidential election and to collect the 100,000 signatures necessary to be a candidate. “I know Turkey is tired of tension,” Akşener said on Wednesday after the announcement of snap elections.
She stressed that the İYİ Party convened its first congress on Dec. 10, 2017 after which it formed provincial and district party organisations. “Since then our party has been ready to go in elections. The İYİ Party will run in the election and will win,” Akşener said, adding that the government and the MHP called for early elections because they are “afraid.”
She emphasized that the İYİ Party has convened its congress on time as the election law requires holding a congress for a new party six months in advance in order to be able to run in the next election. However, doubts linger because the party finalized its district congress on Feb. 26, and it is still not clear whether the Supreme Election Board will take this date into account to calculate the necessary six-month period.
According to the constitutional amendment, political party groups and parties that received at least 5 percent of the vote in the last general election will be able to nominate an individual or joint candidate for a presidential election. In addition to this procedure, those who are able to collect at least 100,000 signatures can run for the presidency. The İYİ Party was founded on Oct. 25, 2017 under the leadership of Akşener, a former senior MHP official who was expelled from the party amid disagreements with Bahçeli.
Parliament last month passed a law revamping electoral regulations that the opposition has said could open the door to fraud and jeopardise the fairness of voting. The law grants the Supreme Electoral Board the authority to merge electoral districts and move ballot boxes to other districts.
On April 16, 2017, Turkey held a referendum during which the majority of voters decided in favor of an 18-article bill to switch from a parliamentary to a presidential system. Turkey’s parliamentary and presidential elections were scheduled to take place in November 2019.
The Higher Board of Education (YÖK) announced that it had postponed university entrance exams set for June 23-24 to June 30 and July 1 to avoid any scheduling conflict.
After the announcement the lira strengthened to 4,07 to the dollar from the previous 4,095. The main BIST-100 share index climbed 1.6 percent, reversing earlier losses on Wednesday. Some investors had already been factoring in the prospect of early elections, citing the difficulty of the government keeping the economy going at its current breakneck pace until late next year.