Ankara (GPA) – Turkish snap elections have been agreed to by President Recep Erdogan and his coalition partners as he seeks to make his final move to secure the new executive powers recently awarded his office..
Turkish President Recep Erdogan announced Wednesday that Presidential and Parliamentary elections originally slated for 2019 will now be moved to June of this year. This was a surprise even to most regular observers of Turkey, but the timing makes sense for Erdogan and his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and their coalition partners in the Nationalist Action Party (MHP).
The main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) is likely worried about these elections as they are seemingly unprepared to put forward many candidates. While most of this is likely a result of the ongoing purges, crackdowns, and arrests by the AKP, even party leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu seems unlikely to rise to the challenge of defeating Erdogan. Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag expressed this confidence by AKP following the election announcement, saying the CHP was reluctant to run Kilicdaroglu “because they do not believe he can compete with our president.”
The CHP is expected to announce their candidate in the coming days but it is still unclear how prepared they are to make their electoral case in under two months. Erdogan, on the other hand, is prepared and is likely to make some important gains to his personal power if this election goes the way he wants.
Erdogan’s Reelection and New Powers
The major prize Erdogan is eyeing with this election is the new powers that will be granted to whoever takes the office next. These powers were granted by an April 2017 constitutional referendum which narrowly passed with 51% of the vote amid claims of voter suppression (predominately in Kurdish areas).
These changes made to the constitution would grant Erdogan sweeping new powers which include essentially irrevocable veto power, greater ability to stack the courts (on top of all the previous judicial purges), extended presidential and parliamentary (a parliament dominated by the AKP), and absorbing the Prime Minister’s powers to make the President both the “head of state and head of government.” The constitutional changes also altered the laws on calling a snap election making it easier for the AKP parliament to make this year’s election possible.
The Turkish snap elections will also have other new laws that give Erdogan further advantages. One of these newest features likely to be most visible to average Turks will be the presence of security forces lording over the ballot boxes. There are also other moves that have made the Turkish elections more susceptible to fraud such as separating different groups of voters at polling locations – making it harder for volunteers to monitor voters against registries – and the end of official seals placed on ballots – a move which used to be to confirm Turkish ballots (but was still practically ignored during the referendum anyway).
Turkish Snap Elections Advantage: Erdogan
These new laws and the state of the opposition in Turkey provide huge advantages to Erdogan who likely feels a need to act quickly to secure power in the face of slowing economy after years of rapid growth (surpassed only by China). Beyond slowing growth, Turkey also faces other economic threats such as previously considered US sanctions for the detainment of a US pastor as well as a case that seems to implicate Erdogan being part of a scheme to violate US sanctions on Iran.
While the 2017 referendum narrowly passed, Erdogan also probably called these elections based on his recent rise in polls amid an atmosphere of heightened nationalist fervor. This is a result of Turkey’s “Operation Olive Branch”, the incursion into the northern Syrian city of Afrin, which so far seems successful (though reliable sources are scarce since both sides are compulsive liars).
It is impossible to predict what will happen in the Turkish snap elections, but in all likelihood, Erdogan is likely to secure another 5 years as president with more power than he currently has. Erdogan still has strong support and the opposition remains scrambled, pushing this election date up only increases the odds that this will still be the case when Turks go to the polls in June.