First Published: 2018-04-17

Nationalist Erdogan ally calls for snap Turkey elections
Next elections will be key moment in Turkish history, as after polls new executive presidency giving head of state more powers should come into force.
Middle East Online

Bahceli's comments stunned observers and Turkish media.

ANKARA - The main nationalist ally of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Tuesday ramped up expectations that elections could be brought forward by over a year by urging snap polls in August.

Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) chief Devlet Bahceli said Turkey "could not wait" for the scheduled date of November 3, 2019, to hold simultaneous presidential and parliamentary elections, urging that the polls take place on August 26.

The government reacted sanguinely to the suggestion, saying it would evaluate Bahceli's call. Erdogan is due to hold a meeting with him on Wednesday afternoon.

"On August 26, 2018, the Turkish nation should go to the ballot box in the spirit of marking a new victory," Bahceli said in a televised meeting of MHP lawmakers in Ankara.

Turkish politics has for the past months fizzed with speculation the elections could be brought forward, with analysts saying this would neutralise the risk of the economy deteriorating in the next months.

It is after these upcoming elections that the new executive presidency -- agreed in a 2017 referendum and denounced by the opposition as giving the head of state authoritarian powers -- will come into force.

The polls will also give Erdogan a chance to extend his stay in power with a new-five year mandate, after already serving 15 years in power as premier and then president.

- 'Early polls more likely' -

Ozgur Unluhisarcikli, the Ankara Office Director of the German Marshall Fund of the US, said that Bahceli's call "has made early elections more likely".

"If President Erdogan does not intend to go to early elections he will now need to make a more clear binding promise that he will not," he said.

Commentators recalled it was Bahceli, then part of a ruling coalition, who in 2002 precipitated the snap polls that brought Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP) to power in the first place. It has ruled Turkey ever since.

Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdag, quoted by Turkish media, said that the government would "consider" Bahceli's call, which he said had created a "new situation". Economy Minister Nihat Zeybekci said early polls would be "positive".

Erdogan declined to directly comment on the intervention, saying "right now I have nothing to say about it".

He said he did not want to add to an earlier speech to lawmakers, where he had repeatedly referred to the elections taking place in November 2019.

Erdogan, Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and parliament speaker Ismail Kahraman did, however, hold an unscheduled meeting in parliament.

Erdogan has formed a tight alliance with the MHP in recent months with the aim of fighting the elections together and the two parties have rarely had any recent disagreements in public.

Bahceli, who has led the MHP since 1997, used to be an outspoken critic of Erdogan but has closely aligned with the president since the July 2016 failed coup aimed at ousting him from power.

- 'Regardless of the costs' -

The date of August 26 would coincide with the anniversary of the 1071 Battle of Malazgirt where pre-Ottoman tribes defeated the Byzantines in a victory celebrated with increasing fervour in modern Turkey in recent years.

Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the head of the main opposition Republican People's Party, said he welcomed the prospect of early polls. "And we will send them (the AKP) out," he said.

Bahceli's comments took markets by surprise with the lira sharply losing value but then slightly making up the losses to trade at 4.1 to the dollar, a loss in value of 0.2 percent on the day.

While growth in Turkey was 7.4 percent in 2017, economists have raised concerns that double-digit inflation, a wide current account deficit, and an almost nine percent fall in the value of the lira this year showed severe risks ahead.

Credit rating agency Moody's said in a note this week the government appeared determined to keep the economy growing rapidly ahead of the polls "regardless of the costs".

 

Russia mulls supplying S-300 missile systems to Syria

Morocco, EU start talks on new fisheries deal

Bashir fires Sudan foreign minister

US has 'concerns' about Turkey holding fair vote under state of emergency

Saudi women embrace sports headscarves

FIFA to return to Morocco to check hotels, stadiums

Turkey in shock after violent Istanbul derby

Iraq pays first war reparations to Kuwait since 2014

Fiery kites adopted as new tactic by Gaza protesters

Romanian president slams plan to move Israel embassy

Western strikes on Syria bring no change whatsoever

Trump criticises OPEC for high oil prices

Syria says rebels south of capital surrender

Market has capacity to absorb higher oil prices: Saudi minister

Putin 'ready' for Trump summit

Saudi Arabia to host first public film screening

HRW criticises Lebanon for evicting Syria refugees

Saudi says intercepted ballistic missile from Yemen

Washington: Assad still has 'limited' chemical capability

European MPs urge US not to scrap Iran deal

Oil price soars to highest level in years

Two more pro-Kurdish MPs stripped of Turkey seats

Oil theft 'costing Libya over $750 million annually'

Turkey's snap polls: bold gambit or checkmate for Erdogan?

Iran arrests senior official over public concert

Bahrain sentences 24 to jail, strips citizenship

UN experts urge Iran to cancel Kurd's death sentence

Moderate quake strikes near Iran nuclear power plant

Syria regime forces caught in surprise IS attack

Turkey sentences 18 to life for killing ‘hero’ coup soldier

Exxon faces setback in Iraq as oil and water mix

Libya to clamp down on fuel smuggling

Yemen to arrest colonel for overlooking African migrant rape

Erdogan sends Turkey to snap polls on June 24

Qatar joins Gulf military exercise in apparent compromise

Saudi-Russia oil alliance likely to undercut OPEC

UN in security talks with Syria on chemical probe

Riyadh says two al Qaeda militants killed in Yemen

Record of women candidates in Lebanon, but you can't tell from TV

Sudan protests to UN over Egypt voting in disputed area

Erdogan calls Turkey snap polls for June 24

Rights watchdog say African migrants face rape, torture in Yemen

Nine years since last vote, Lebanon in election fever

Israeli fire neat Gaza border injures five Palestinian

Egypt army says killed jihadist leader in Sinai