Turkey to hold presidential, parliamentary elections on May 14

March 10, 2023
Recep Tayyip Erdogan
Recep Tayyip Erdogan

ANKARA — Turkey will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on May 14 — a month earlier than previously scheduled, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan officially announced on Friday.

“Our nation will go to the polls to elect its president and parliamentarians on May 14,” Erdogan said in a speech after signing the election decision.

The elections were scheduled to be held on June 18, but the government moved them forward to avoid coinciding with the Hajj pilgrimage, a university entrance exam and the start of the summer vacation season.

The elections could be the country’s most significant vote in decades, with Erdogan’s two-decade rule of Turkey at risk.

The opposition has united around Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the leader of the second-biggest party in parliament, the Republican People’s Party (CHP).

“Prolonging the election process could lead to political tensions and uncertainties that carry the risk of delaying the efforts to heal the wounds of the earthquake and to make up for the losses,” Erdogan said. “It is essential to leave the election agenda behind us as soon as possible.”

Erdogan, 69, has ruled over Turkey since 2003 — first as prime minister and as president since 2014 — but this year’s elections could be his most challenging.

The country is struggling with a troubled economy, soaring inflation and the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that killed more than 46,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of people across 11 Turkish provinces sheltering in tents or temporary accommodation.

Many have criticized the government’s response to the earthquake and accuse it of failing to prepare the earthquake-prone country for a disaster in waiting.

Earlier this week, Turkey’s disparate opposition parties, including nationalists, Islamists and conservatives, ended month of uncertainty that had frustrated supporters of the anti-Erdogan bloc and nominated a joint candidate to run against Erdogan.

“May our decision to renew the elections be beneficial for our country, our nation, the Turkish Grand National Assembly and our political parties,” Erdogan said after putting his signature on a decision confirming the election date, which was then published in the official gazette.

Erdogan has signaled that he will base his electoral campaign on the reconstruction of the earthquake-devastated provinces, trying to convince voters that only his government — which was behind a construction boom that helped drive economic growth — can rebuild lives.

“We are starting the election calendar even as we are focusing all of our attention on healing the wounds caused by the earthquake, rebuilding and restoring our cities and ensuring that our people obtain homes as soon as possible,” Erdogan said.

“We need to implement a program that will heal the wounds of an unprecedented destruction in an unprecedented speed,” he said. “The only way to overcome the direct and indirect effects of the earthquake and normalize the situation in the region and our country as soon as possible is through the implementation of decisions by a strong political will.”

The Turkish leader has conceded shortfalls in his government’s response in the early stages of earthquake, but said that rescue efforts were hampered by winter weather and the destruction of infrastructure. He has promised to rebuild tens of thousands of homes within the year.

The six-party opposition, known as the Nation Alliance, has vowed to restore a parliamentary democracy in Turkey should they dislodge Erdogan, abolishing the presidential system that he introduced. Opponents say the system, which was narrowly approved in a 2017 referendum and was installed following elections in 2018, has amounted to “one-man rule” without checks and balances.

No campaign songs will be allowed out of respect for the more than 47,000 people who perished during the earthquakes in Turkey, Erdogan said as he accused his rivals of “political calculations” in the wake of the disaster.

Erdogan has attacked the opposition’s promise to govern through consensus as a recipe for a return to the bickering coalitions that produced decades of instability before he rose to power. Though Erdogan remains Turkey’s most popular politician, his party has lost some support among the poor — typically among its most stalwart backers — amid the nation’s worst cost-of-living crisis in 20 years.

Erdogan still retains significant support, and could yet emerge on top, alongside his AK Party.

On election day, candidates need more than 50% of votes to win in the first round; otherwise they face a runoff two weeks later. — Agencies

March 10, 2023
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