Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ultra-nationalist ally Devlet Bahçeli, who is also the leader of the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), called on Tuesday for snap elections to take place on August 26, with the government spokesperson not ruling out the option.
The MHP has allied with the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) led by President Erdoğan for next year’s general and presidential elections. Bahçeli suggested that the elections, scheduled for November 2019, should be held on Aug. 26 this year.
“It is not possible for Turkey to wait with patience until Nov. 3, 2019,” he said, referring to the time when the elections are scheduled to take place. He pointed to risks to Turkey including the economy and possible increases in migration into the country.
Responding immediately after to Bahçeli, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said the two party leaders were set to meet to discuss the issue on Wednesday. Erdoğan also said that the constitutional change would be fully implemented with the November 2019 elections, possibly hinting that early polls were not on the cards.
Turks narrowly backed a constitutional change last year to change the constitution and grant Erdoğan sweeping powers. The changes are due to become effective in the next elections.
Deputy Prime Minister and government spokesperson Bekir Bozdağ also said Bahçeli’s offer needs to first be discussed at the AKP’s decision-making bodies.
The AKP and the MHP formed what they call the “People’s Alliance” for the upcoming presidential and general elections. The government had repeatedly dismissed the prospect of an early election. Erdogan, the president, last year narrowly won a referendum to change the constitution and create an executive presidency. However, those extended powers are not due to take effect until after presidential polls, now slated for November 2019.
Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) deputy chair Bülent Tezcan said they accepted “the challenge,” adding “we are ready.” “The sole will that can solve Turkey’s problems is that of the nation,” he added.
“Turkey has a government that has failed domestically and internationally,” Tezcan said in response to Bahçeli’s call. “Serious economic troubles have come to our doorstep. The fire of the exchange rates won’t die,” citing the Turkish Lira’s continuously deteriorating value. Tezcan added that “We will discuss the date. It might be Aug. 26, 2018, a week earlier or later.”
Following Bahçeli’s comments, Turkey’s lira weakened to 4,1103 from 4,0865 beforehand. The Borsa İstanbul main stock exchange index fell more than 2 percent. Some investors have been factoring in the prospect of early elections, citing the difficulty of the government keeping the economy going at its current breakneck pace – it expanded at 7,3 percent in the fourth quarter – until late next year.
The İYİ Party, a newly found nationalist party that broke off from MHP, said it would welcome early elections and was ready to field its candidate for president, party leader Meral Akşener.