Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Tuesday that he is considering snap elections, originally proposed by his far-right political ally, Devlet Bahceli.
If Turkey did go to the polls, a possible date for elections is August 26. This would prevent new political parties from being eligible to run and, after the elections, the President would find himself significantly empowered. Following the April 2017 constitutional referendum, Turkey’s next President will be the strongest leader among NATO member states. The new Constitution eliminates the office of the Prime Minister and diminishes the role of the Parliament. The President will have a wide scope for ruling by Presidential Decree, without any parliamentary check to his authority. Moreover, the President will be able to appoint 12 out the 15-member Constitutional tribunal.
In recent months Erdogan denounced calls for early elections, citing economic instability. On Tuesday he indicated he was open to the prospect of early polls, as he was due to meet with his political ally, Bahceli, on Wednesday.
Government spokesman Bekir Bozdag told the press on Tuesday that snap elections may be authorized by the ruling AKP party, which suggests a calculated political move. Bozdag also told the press that the EU has not treated Turkey fairly, as the latest progress report indicates that Ankara is drifting away from any prospect of membership; Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Tuesday that Turkey was taking “strides away” from Brussels as it moves towards authoritarianism. The question now is whether the electoral result is open to surprises, given rising and unemployment, a slowdown in the economy, a meltdown of the lira’s exchange rate, and an ever-widening trade deficit. Turning the problem on its head, Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci called for the introduction of the new Presidential system, as a strong executive would project economic “predictability and sustainability,” al-Monitor reports.
A rather mute question is whether there is a candidate that could actually challenge Erdogan. Abdullah Gul appears to be a formidable challenger, if he decides to run, as he is seen as the architect of AKP’s early economic success, has conservative Islamist credentials, and is pro-EU. Theoretically, he could draw from both liberal and conservative pools of support. Although He does not have his own party, but could run with the smaller Islamist party, Saadet.