Jan 12 2018

Early elections could be on the cards in Turkey - analyst

With the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) about to agree on an official coalition, Soner Çağaptay, director of the Turkish Research Programme at the Washington Institute, said that various factors suggest that they might be considering moving the elections forward.

Local elections are currently scheduled for March 2019 while parliamentary and presidential elections are expected for November 2019.

But the AKP may want to move them forward, Çağatay said, because Turkey has just posted good growth figures for 2017, the highest since 2011. Plus, holding the national elections after local elections may harm perceptions of the AKP.

“When voting in local elections, Turks tend to give greater consideration to local figures than to national party platforms, so ruling parties often fare poorly compared to their performance in parliamentary polls,” he said.

“For instance, the AKP received 38.3 (percent) of the vote in the 2009 local elections, compared to 49.8 percent in the 2011 parliamentary elections.”

The heat is also on from the newly set-up Good (IYI) Party, and the risk of their gaining serious momentum.

“While polls show IYI hovering at around 10 percent support, Erdogan is well aware that the more time Aksener has to build her base, the more likely she will be able to position herself as a formidable right-wing alternative and peel off some AKP voters,” Çağaptay said.

“Snap elections could help him nip this new challenger in the bud and keep IYI from meeting the 10 percent electoral threshold required for entry into parliament.”

Finally, he said, a change allowing the government to select some members of the Supreme Electoral Commission will make new elections easier to manipulate.

“The change in commission policy will make electoral oversight even more elusive for opposition parties, potentially giving Erdogan the legal buffer he needs to ensure a "clean" victory if the next elections are as close as the 2017 referendum.”