For a fair and decent election

For a fair and decent election

Most figures on the political scene have been caught off-guard by the call for snap elections on June 24. But we can at least say President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan is much more prepared than the other potential candidates and political parties with elections now on the horizon.

Since last November, Erdoğan has attended his ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) local congresses across the country every weekend. Sometimes he has attended and addressed two congresses in two different cities. On April 7 he gave speeches at congresses in the western provinces of Aydın and Denizli and on April 8 he spoke at congresses in the eastern provinces of Siirt and Van.

Last weekend, he was even more active, attending congresses at districts in Istanbul, shuttling between three party district congresses on both Saturday and Sunday. He also addressed people gathered in front of the venues where the local party congresses were held, thus delivering six speeches over the course of one day. This made a total of 12 speeches in a single weekend.

Such moves, aimed at keeping the AKP’s base and party network ready for elections, will help put Erdoğan in a far more advantageous position in the upcoming polls.

Obviously there is not much time left before the snap elections. In the past snap polls were only called at times when the country faced a “governance problem” triggered by a political crisis, instability and uncertainty. This time, however, elections will be held in an environment where there is no such political instability. It is not possible talk about serious foreign policy and security issues tying Erdoğan’s hands, even though on April 18 he referred to such questions. He also spoke about “macroeconomic balances,” leading us to think that economic factors played an important role when the decision to call snap elections was taken.

One crucial point is that this will be the first time since Turkey adopted the multi-party system that elections will be held under the state of emergency across the whole country. In the past, amid conflict with the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) from 1987 to 2002, all elections were held with a large part of the country’s southeast under the emergency rule. The state of emergency was in place in 13 provinces in 1987 and in 2003 the number of provinces under the emergency rule declined to six.

The difference from the past is that the state of emergency is now in place across the country. The government, which has the power to issue decrees under the state of emergency, over the next two months is able to issue decrees on any matter that is normally regulated by laws.

There is a critical issue related to the elections. The government has exercised emergency rule powers granted under the constitution since shortly after the July 2016 coup attempt. Parliament has extended the government’s mandate every three months over the past two years. It is key that powers provided by emergency rule should not be used in a way – directly or indirectly - that could affect the result of the elections and create even more unfair competition.

It is almost important to not give credit to widespread suspicion that the snap polls were called to prevent the İYİ (Good) Party of Meral Akşener from taking part in the parliamentary elections. All measures should therefore be taken to make sure that the İYİ Party is able to participate in the election. If there are any legal or administrative hurdles that prevent the İYİ Party from participating, they should be removed quickly.

In many respects, this will be an election of “firsts.” For the first time voters will elect the president and MPs simultaneously, thus formalizing the shift from a parliamentary to an executive presidential system. In order to remove severe doubts about the vote, the authorities need to take the steps outlined above in a fair and decent fashion.

Sedat Ergin, hdn, Opinion, Turkey