TURKISH PRESIDENT Tayyip Erdogan addresses members of the parliament from his AK Party in Ankara on April 24th, 2018...
(photo credit: MURAT CETINMUHURDAR/PRESIDENTIAL PALACE/REUTERS)
Turkey’s political parties are rushing to set up campaigns for a snap election that was called for June 24. The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) called the election on April 20 as President Recep Tayyip Erdogan seeks to extend his term and consolidate his party’s power.
The AKP have been in power since 2002.
After a referendum in 2017, Turkey is moving toward becoming a presidential republic, and the post of prime minister will be abolished after this election. In addition, 600 legislative seats will be up for grabs. In the last parliamentary election in November 2015, the AKP received 49% of the vote while the opposition CHP received 25%. The smaller HDP took 10% and the MHP 11%. However, Turkey has been under a state of emergency since a 2016 coup attempt and tens of thousands have been sacked and arrested.
A Brookings Institution paper argues that Erdogan seeks to “ride a favorable wave of nationalism and cash in on a popular mandate before dark clouds over the economy turn into a storm.”
In March, Turkey completed a two-month military operation in Syria aimed at what it says was clearing “terrorists” aligned with the Kurdish People’s Protection Units from the border. Turkey has also been fighting the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) in the eastern part of the country since a cease-fire broke down in 2015. All this leads to uncertainty ahead of the vote.
Burhanettin Duran at the Daily Sabah argues that opposition parties will have trouble finding a unifying candidate to oppose Erdogan.
Turkey is angry that EU states have criticized the election. The Monitoring Committee of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) called on Ankara to postpone the vote. Writer Ilnur Cevik accused Western states of “doing everything to interfere in the elections campaign.”
A new party called the Good Party or IYI led by Meral Aksener, a former MHP member and former interior minister, has emerged as an interesting addition to the electoral map. Aksener has been joined by 15 members of parliament who left their former parties to join her campaign.
The IYI has met with the CHP and the small Felicity Party, apparently to discuss strategy.
Aksener said last year she fears the Turkish democracy is under threat.
Former president Abdullah Gul, once a key ally of Erdogan, also met with former prime minister Ahmet Davutoglu on April 23, in Ankara in a meeting whose details are under wraps. It may suggest that a number of former leaders of the AKP are considering their moves for the future.
The campaign will take place as tensions rise along the Syrian border where Turkey has accused the Americans of working too closely with the YPG and as President Donald Trump is toying with the idea of pulling US forces out of Syria.
This means any problems in northern Syria, where Turkish troops are based and patrolling, could affect the election.
In addition, there will be tough questions for the mostly Kurdish HDP, many of whose leading members have been arrested and jailed in the last two years since their parliamentary immunity was stripped. Kurds in Turkey have also voted for the AKP in the last election; their turnout will be a key factor as Erdogan will want to reach out to this key demographic. He also faces important questions about the status of millions of Syrian refugees in the country.