Why has Erdoğan vowed to lift the state of emergency?
President Tayyip Erdoğan said on June 13 that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) will lift the state of emergency if he is re-elected in the June 24 snap elections and keeps its dominant position in parliament.
His words were one of the biggest surprises of the election campaign so far. Because until now it has been the opposition parties that have been pledging to lift the state of emergency as soon as they come to power, if they can beat Erdoğan. Until June 13, Erdoğan accused those asking for the state of emergency to be lifted of supporting terrorism and praising the toppling of the government through a coup. The state of emergency was declared by the government on July 20, 2016, days after a military coup attempt blamed on the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, an Islamist preacher living in the U.S.
With Erdoğan now pledging to lift state of emergency, the only political figure left saying it should be kept in place is Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) head Devlet Bahçeli. Bahçeli supported last year’s constitutional shift to further empower the president and he is now in an alliance with Erdoğan for his re-election.
The opposition leaders have been quick to respond to Erdoğan. Muharrem İnce, the presidential candidate of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), called on Erdoğan to lift it immediately without waiting for the election. “Is there anything stopping you now?” he asked.
But why on earth has Erdoğan decided to change his mind about this extremely important issue? He had until now defended emergency rule on the basis of fighting terrorism and clearing any remaining pro-putschist tendencies from the state apparatus. But there was another reason for the government to keep it in place, which has not been widely spoken about: The state of emergency allows the government to issue decrees with the force of law, bypassing parliament on issues related to security. In today’s world, not only in Turkey, almost everything can be related to security by all governments across the world.
On the other hand, the state of emergency is widely seen as the main reason for the regression of democratic rights in Turkey, the decrease in the quality of justice, the growing gap between Ankara and the EU, and the slowdown in foreign investments to Turkey. The recent depreciation of the Turkish Lira against the U.S. dollar and the euro, the rise in interest rates following strong statements by Erdoğan in his recent trip to London, and the feedback that Deputy Prime Minister for the Economy Mehmet Şimşek brought back from financial circles may have convinced Erdoğan that defending a further extension of emergency rule could work against the government and his re-election.
There may have been another factor leading Erdoğan to promise to lift emergency rule. The Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) is on a knife edge to exceed the 10 percent national threshold for the parliamentary elections. It is true that Kurdish voters are not particularly happy about the further extension of the state of emergency. As a party that can attract both Kurdish and conservative votes, the AK Parti may lose a great deal if the HDP exceeds the threshold.
Estimates show there could be a difference of around 60 to 66 seats in parliament, depending on whether the HDP is inside or outside parliament. If the HDP is not in parliament, it would work to the AK Parti’s advantage; if it is in parliament it would work to the AK Parti’s disadvantage. In recent days, amateur videos have gone viral on social media showing Erdoğan recently talking in a closed-to-media meeting in Istanbul, saying the necessary precautions must be taken by the AK Parti’s ballot box observers so that the HDP does not exceed the threshold.
So it seems that Erdoğan’s change in rhetoric about lifting the state of emergency may have links to both the state of emergency and his expectations from the coming elections.