An early election on the Turkish horizon?
There have been a number of developments in Turkish politics, which have led political commentators to expect the possibility of a snap election in 2018.
President Tayyip Erdoğan has repeatedly said all three elections would be on time in 2019—the municipal elections towards the end of March and the presidential and parliamentary elections in early November. Despite this however, there have still been speculations.
The following is a summary of developments that have caused commentators to suspect a snap election.
• Election alliance: The election alliance between Erdoğan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) and Devlet Bahçeli’s Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) is now official. The two parties have submitted a joint draft to the Turkish Parliament for changes in the election law, of which opposition parties have criticized for creating an extra advantage in the calculation of seats that can be won.
Taking the example of the MHP, smaller parties on the Islamist/nationalist front, like the Greater Unity Party (BBP), want to join the alliance in hopes of obtaining a few seats on the AK Parti list, which would be impossible for them to obtain otherwise. The acceleration of inter-party traffic makes observers believe Erdoğan might want to take advantage of the opportunity as leverage.
• Afrin operation: Turkey’s military operation in Syria—with the indirect support of Russia—against the U.S.-backed People’s Protection Units (YPG), which it has launched as it sees it as the extension of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), with whom it has been at war for decades, has fostered the rising tide of nationalism in the country. The operation nowadays is the most popular issue in speeches by Erdoğan, who knows well that it could be difficult to prolong the enthusiasm at the same level for a long time. The social democratic main opposition Republican People’s Party’s (CHP) leader, Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu, said he threw his support behind Turkey’s anti-terror operation. But both Erdoğan and other AK Parti officials have been trying to show the CHP falling in line with the Kurdish problem-focused Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), which strongly opposes the operation. That is the antagonism factor trying to be generated.
• Populist economy: After many years, the government has decided to give financial and material incentives to farmers who want to breed livestock and import beef at the same time to curb rising prices in the market, provide tax incentive to industrials who would employ extra workers (even temporary ones), give long-term job guarantees to contracted workers in sub-contracting companies and public agencies (involving nearly one million people) and launch huge construction and engineering projects, which could keep the economy going and produce new (regardless of being temporary) jobs despite the burden the recent ones have put on the Treasury. Such populist moves in the past have always been associated with nearing snap elections, being another justification for speculations for an early election.
All these might be relevant factors for any country, not only Turkey, to go to early elections.
But the dominant factor for Erdoğan is likely to be whether or not the alliance he has formed would lose key municipalities, AK Parti itself would lose its majority in parliament and he would secure 50 percent plus one vote to get re-elected. Otherwise, the elections will go ahead as scheduled.