Erdoğan’s Hagia Sophia move signals snap election - columnist

The move by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan to turn the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque signals plans for a snap election, wrote Yeniçağ columnist Orhan Uğuroğlu on Monday.

Turkey’s strongman has done a u-turn on a string of subjects, including the status of the Hagia Sophia, pointing to panic ahead of the next general elections scheduled for 2023, Uğuroğlu said.

On Friday, President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan signed a decree, handing over the Hagia Sophia’s administrative control to the country’s top religious body after a court ruled a 1934 decree by the father of modern Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, to repurpose the building as a museum was illegal. The move, a long-time demand by Islamists, has been met with international condemnation.

But a little over a year ago, the Turkish president was singing a different tune, the Yeniçağ columnist said, recalling a speech from March  2019, when Erdoğan said transforming the 6th century UNESCO World Heritage Site into a mosque would come at “a heavy price’’ for Turkey.

Moreover, Erdoğan accused those demanding the transformation of having “no understanding of the world.’’ 

“As such, as a political leader I have not lost my way so much that I would fall for this trick,” he said.

Erdoğan has since been forced to lose his way, Uğuroğlu wrote, pointing to polls that increasingly show Turkey’s new political parties founded by former Erdoğan allies eating away at the support his ruling Justice and Development Party had.

Turkey’s strongman is also facing inflation, high cost of living and rising unemployment as “having an increasingly crushing effect on the country’s business owners, merchants and pensioners,’’ the Yeniçağ columnist wrote. 

Turkey’s main opposition secularist Republican People’s Party has narrowed the gap with the ruling AKP to six percentage points, with the parties seeing 30 and 24 percent support, respectively, according to a June survey by polling company MetroPoll.

Ankara has repeatedly rejected talks of an early election.