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Early elections for Erdogan: strengthening power, hiding economic crisis

Istanbul (AsiaNews / Agencies) – Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan yesterday announced presidential and legislative elections scheduled for June 24, one and a half years ahead of expiry of the mandate scheduled for November 3, 2019.

The Turkish leader wants to exploit the crackdown on the country – including opposition – following the failed coup in July 2016, the results of the presidential referendum and of popularity due to the anti-Kurdish offensive in northern Syria, to obtain a new mandate with strengthened powers.

The next elections represent a key step for the future of Turkey. Analysts and experts speak of a “nationalist wave” ridden by the current head of state to consolidate his power. Furthermore, the country will be called to the polls with the state of emergency still in force.

Indeed, yesterday, the Parliament approved the continuation of the special measures for the next three months.

The elections will guarantee the possibility for 64-year-old Erdogan and the ruling AKP (Party for Justice and Development) to extend the leadership for a further five years, after leading the country for 15 years first as prime minister and then as president. The main rival will be the leader of the secular opposition Kemal Kilicdaroglu, head of the Republican Popular Party (Chp). Few chance of success, however, for the pro-Kurdish democratic movement (Hdp), weakened by several arrests that have also hit the party’s leading figures.

In recent days Erdogan had met the government ally Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Party (MHP). At the end of the face-to-face meeting, Bahceli had invoked the need for an early return to the polls to meet the country’s challenges. “As a result of the consultations – said the Turkish president – we decided to bring forward the vote to Sunday 24 June 2018”. Previously Erdogan had repeatedly denied a return to the polls before the end of the legislature.

The Turkish president justified this electoral drive because of “the events in Syria” and the need to take “important decisions” on the subject of the economy. For Fadi Hakura, Turkey expert at Chatham House study center in London, this decision is “a sign of panic and weakness” in the face of “troubling” economic indices.

For some weeks now the country has already been immersed in an electoral atmosphere, with Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim, stepping up speeches and public rallies with bright and nationalist tones. The main opposition parties say they are ready to take up the challenge, even if the chances of success are scarce. ChHP leader Kemal Kiliçdaroglu declared that “2018 will be the year of democracy. We are ready, we will win!”.

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