A proposal to hold early elections by a far-right Turkish government ally has rocked Turkey’s political landscape with some seeing it as a step to hurt the opposition’s chances and ensure a smooth transition to an executive presidency for incumbent Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli said on Tuesday the country should not wait until November next year when presidential and parliamentary elections are due, but hold them on Aug. 26 this year instead. Erdoğan refused to comment, but the two men are to meet on Thursday to discuss the idea.
Turkey is to move to an executive presidency after the polls, making it crucial for Erdoğan to win. Opinion polls show his support around the 40-percent level, but to win the presidency he needs to take 50 percent, plus one, of the vote.
Some observers said Erdoğan put Bahçeli up to making the proposal, a charge the far-right leader denied.
Others have wondered about the logic behind the timing as Aug. 26 falls during a religious public holiday when many wealthier Turks would usually be on vacation or visiting distant relatives and thus less likely to vote. That would skew the results towards Erdoğan’s party, which has stronger support among lower-income groups.
Others have speculated that the electoral rules might be enforced in such a way as to cut out the Good Party, a new nationalist party that split from Bahçeli and looks to have considerable support in opinion polls.
Kemal Özkiraz, a former polling company head, said that according to electoral rules only a party that had held its first national congress more than six months before the elections could field candidates, and that this would prevent the Good Party, which had its congress on April 1, from taking part.
The opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) said it would participate in early elections, but agreed that the law would prevent the Good Party from standing.
“The Good Party fulfils its six months on September 1,” CHP whip Özgür Özel said.
“If the elections take place on August 26, the Good Party cannot participate … Devlet Bahçeli and his team, who are afraid of a party established on April 1, want to bring elections back to August 26.”