Will Turkey go to early polls?
Turkey’s agenda has been preoccupied with the claims of a notorious mafia leader who has been effectively using social media and attracting millions of viewers every week. Since most of the issues gang leader Sedat Peker has brought up are related to homeland security and public order, Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu is involved and has become the target of the mafia boss.
In a lengthy live interview late May 24, Soylu sought to present his version of some of the incidents while describing Peker’s exposés as part of an international campaign against Turkey.
Given that Soylu is one of Turkey’s most important political figures, the situation he finds himself in surely has political ramifications. He is well-respected among conservative-nationalist circles due to his effective fight against terrorism that has sometimes drawn human rights criticisms as well.
Last year, his attempt to resign for causing public chaos as he imposed a weekend curfew just hours before midnight was thwarted by strong interventions from both the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) grassroots. When the dust settled, many interpreted the incident as evidence of Soylu’s growing influence and role within the People’s Alliance.
A year after his abortive resignation, Soylu is still in the headlines, but it seems the support he has received so far is not satisfactory for him. In the interview, he said he had not been abandoned, although he did note an ongoing silence.
Soylu’s indirect reprehension was heard on May 25 by MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli, who emphasized that the interior minister is not alone and that his party will stand with him. In the meantime, he suggested that the judiciary should roll up its sleeves and take legal action over the claims of the criminal leader.
The eyes will be now on President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who has not directly waded into the ongoing discussion. But Soylu said he discussed the matter with the president and said he had received his support.
As expected, the opposition has used the opportunity to renew its calls for early elections. Both Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and Good (İYİ) Party Chairwoman Meral Akşener are exerting pressure on the AKP as they suggest the ruling party is dragging Turkey toward unchartered waters, meaning the only option left for the country is to go to snap polls.
Kılıçdaroğlu has openly challenged Erdoğan, although the Nation Alliance has not yet announced its presidential candidate; Akşener, meanwhile, has ratcheted up her rhetoric against the president.
Meanwhile, they seem to be speeding up their works to finalize a set of principles to guide the Nation Alliance if it comes to power, detailing a timeline to replace the current system with a strengthened parliamentary model.
They also continue talks to expand the alliance with two other newly founded opposition parties, while the Peoples’ Democracy Party (HDP) will back the alliance without taking on a formal role.
Under current mathematical balances, however, the opposition has no power to take Turkey to the polls.
Early polls are only possible if Erdoğan decides to dissolve parliament and, consequently, end his mandate or if the majority of parliamentarians vote for it. Yet, there is no sign of this end as both Erdoğan and Bahçeli have already vowed that the polls will only take place on time in 2023.
Plus, the AKP and the MHP are poised to start an internal discussion on amending the Election Law and Political Parties Law in the coming period.
The opposition believes that keeping the perception that the government has lost its capacity to run the country constantly on the agenda will lead to a decrease in public support for the ruling alliance and early elections.
It remains to be seen whether the strategy will work.