April 18, 2018
Turkish president says country urgently needs to make switch to an executive presidency
Turkey to hold snap elections on 24 June, says Erdoğan
The Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has announced snap elections on 24 June, more than a year earlier than planned, saying the country urgently needed to make the switch to an executive presidency.
Whoever wins will be vested with extraordinary powers after a referendum last year transformed Turkey into a presidential republic instead of a parliamentary one.
Erdoğan said he made the decision after speaking to the head of the Nationalist Movement party (MHP), Devlet Bahçeli, who a day earlier had floated the prospect of early polls. The parliamentary and presidential elections had previously been expected in November 2019.
Erdoğan has established a formal alliance with the MHP to fight the elections, which made it hard for his Justice and Development party (AKP) to to dismiss Bahçeli’s call out of hand.
“Even though the president and government are working in unison, the diseases of the old system confront us at every step we take,” Erdoğan said in a speech broadcast live on television.
“Developments in Syria and elsewhere have made it urgent to switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country’s future in a stronger way … We discussed Mr Bahçeli’s call with our relevant authorities. We came to the agreement that we should approach this early election positively.”
A failed coup attempt in Turkey in July 2016 was followed by a wide-ranging crackdown that has led to tens of thousands of people being imprisoned or dismissed from their jobs in the judiciary, civil service, military, police, media and academia – a purge that has gone beyond the alleged coup plotters to encompass dissidents of all stripes.
The plot was blamed by the Turkish government on a movement led by Fethullah Gülen, an exiled preacher based in the US with thousands of grassroots followers.
In a related development, Turkey’s parliament is due to vote later on Wednesday on whether to prolong the state of emergency that was declared after the failed coup. Parliament is widely expected to extend the state of emergency for a seventh time despite calls at home and abroad for it to end.
The broad crackdown has polarised Turkey. Opponents of Erdoğan say he took advantage of the plot to consolidate his power, purging dissidents and persecuting critical media outlets.
The extra powers granted by the referendum are not due to take effect until after the presidential election, and Bahçeli argued on Tuesday that there was “no point in prolonging this any longer”, citing efforts by unnamed circles to foment chaos in Turkey.
Bahçeli, the MHP leader since 1997, is seen as a kingmaker in Turkish politics and has played a role in some key moments of its modern history. He precipitated the 2002 snap elections that brought the AKP to power. It has ruled Turkey ever since.
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