Will Turkish elections take place under emergency rule?
Government spokesman Bekir Bozdağ announced on Jan. 8 that the state of emergency would be extended for another three months as of Jan. 19. The emergency rule was declared by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Parti) government on July 20, 2016 shortly after the military coup attempt of July 15, 2016.
Throughout 2016, and in the first months of 2017, there were a number of terrorist attacks carried out not only by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) but also by the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and its affiliates. These attacks, which claimed many lives in Turkey, were a consequence of the civil war in Syria.
Back then both President Tayyip Erdoğan and Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım had valid reasons to defend extending the emergency rule, in addition to the ongoing operations within governmental agencies to purge alleged members of the illegal network of Fethullah Gülen, the U.S.-based Islamist preacher who is accused of masterminding the 2016 coup attempt.
In present-day Turkey the Gülenists largely seem to have been suppressed and removed from government agencies. Since the defeat of ISIL in Syria and the entrenchment of U.S. control over the PKK and its affiliates, there has been – thank God – a considerable decrease in the number of terrorist attacks. Thanks should also be given to the extraordinary measures carried out by the Turkish security forces, not least within the Turkey-Syria border areas.
Yet the government has once again decided to extend the state of emergency further. And Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli has already voiced his full support.
It is not only the extra security measures like extended detention and arrest periods that the government finds useful in the state of emergency. Perhaps even more useful are the decree laws (KHK) that the government is able to issue, bypassing parliamentary debate and all checks and balances. President Erdoğan recently said that thanks to KHKs the government has saved a lot of time, as they enable the government to take quick action with no visible checks and balances.
If emergency rule is lifted, all steps taken by the government via KHKs so far will have to be taken to parliament to become law. And of course the AK Parti doesn’t want to have to do that.
But here is the question: Turkey has already gone to the ballots under the state of emergency for the referendum on shifting to an executive presidential system in April 2017. Back then a lot of debate was stirred over the vote-counting procedure during the 49 percent “No,” 51 percent “Yes” result. So now will Turkey also hold three important elections in 2019 - locals in March and presidential and parliamentary elections in November - under the state of emergency?
A few hours before the cabinet meeting on Jan. 8, MHP head Bahçeli said his party will not present any candidate for the 2019 presidential elections and instead throw its support behind Erdoğan’s presidency. What Bahçeli wants in return is a certain method to enter parliament (amid concerns that the MHP may not pass the 10 percent election threshold), and to prove that his party has got more than 7 percent of the national vote (the minimum necessary to secure financial support from the Treasury). There isn’t currently a ready formula to cover both demands, but government spokesmen Bozdağ, after announcing the decision to extend emergency rule, said Bahçeli’s declaration of support had pleased the AK Party.
The outlook of Turkish politics is certainly getting more complicated with every passing day.