Bahçeli rejects early election speculation

Devlet Bahçeli, the leader of the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), backed his ruling coalition partners with statements on Sunday rejecting calls for early elections and echoing the president’s vow to launch a military operation in northern Syria, Turkish daily Hürriyet reported.

Defeats in this year’s local elections and growing reports of strife within the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have raised speculation that the country could be headed for elections well before they are scheduled in 2023.

Bahçeli said circles that this talk was being driven by circles who wish to return to a parliamentary system. Turkey switched to an executive presidential system after the national elections last June, transferring a large portion of executive powers to the president and doing away with the role of prime minister.

“Yesterday evening again there was discussion of early elections on various television channels. There’s no need for early elections in Turkey, such an election would mean delaying the fight against terror”, Bahçeli said on Sunday morning after attending prayers for he Eid al-Adha religious holiday.

The fight against groups listed as terrorist organisations has been on the top of Turkey’s agenda in recent weeks, as Washington struggled to hash out a deal with Ankara that would prevent a Turkish military operation against the Kurdish-controlled regions in northern Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) and its affiliates have played a crucial role in the U.S.-backed coalition against the Islamic State. But Ankara views the group as a terrorist organisation due to its links to militants who have fought for Kurdish self-rule in Turkey for over three decades.

This week, U.S. and Turkish officials announced that they had reached a deal that would progress stuttering plans to clear the YPG from a “safe zone” south of Turkey’s border, preventing a Turkish attack.

But President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan appeared to repeat his threat of an attack on Saturday, when he told Turks in a message marking the Eid al-Adha holiday that he hoped Turkey would add this month to its list of historic military victories recorded in the month of August.

Turkey’s Victory Day, commemorating victory in the last battle in the war between Turkey and Greece in 1922, is celebrated on August 30.

Erdoğan also referred to Operation Euphrates Shield, a military incursion launched into northern Syria in 2016 in which Turkey troops fought against both the Islamic State and YPG.

“We can’t know exactly what the president’s programme is, or what thoughts are driving him”, Bahçeli said. “But there’s one sentence that has been a historic one for years: ‘August is the month of victory’. Victory must be constantly renewed and made permanent. God, do not deprive Turkey of victory”.