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Erdoğan’s AKP to consider possibility of early presidential election

President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdoğan (R) shakes hands with Leader of Turkey's Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) Devlet Bahçeli (L) as they pose for a photo in Ankara, Turkey on February 18, 2018. Kayhan Ozer / Anadolu Agency KAYHAN

President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s ruling party will discuss the possibility of holding Turkey’s presidential election in August, more than a year earlier than planned, a government spokesman said on Wednesday, following a suggestion from its nationalist allies, according to a report by Reuters.

The government had repeatedly dismissed the prospect of an early election.

Erdoğan narrowly won a referendum in April 2017 to amend the constitution and create an executive presidency. However, those extended powers are not due to take effect until after the presidential election, currently scheduled for November 2019.

“The party will assess the possibility and later release a statement,” government spokesman and Deputy Prime Minister Bekir Bozdağ told reporters.

Devlet Bahçeli, leader of the small Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), currently in opposition but expected to form an alliance with Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP) in the general election, also slated for November 2019, had said it would be difficult for the country to “endure current circumstances” until then. He pointed to risks facing Turkey including the economy and possible increases in migration into the country.

Erdoğan said he would meet with Bahçeli on Wednesday and also said the constitutional amendment would be fully implemented with the November 2019 elections, possibly hinting that early polls were not in the cards.

Following Bahçeli’s comments, Turkey’s lira weakened to 4.1103 from the previous 4.0865. The Borsa Istanbul main stock exchange index fell more than 2 percent.

Some investors have been factoring in the prospect of early elections, citing the difficulty of the government keeping the economy going at its current breakneck pace — it expanded at 7.3 percent in the fourth quarter — until late next year.

“It is going to be increasingly difficult to sustain the currently high growth rates until November 2019, when presidential/parliamentary elections are scheduled,” Eurasia Group’s Naz Masraff said in a note to clients this week.

“Early elections are, therefore, likely later this year (60 percent likelihood) before the economy takes a turn for worse.”

“Turkey has a government that has failed domestically and internationally,” Bülent Tezcan, spokesman for the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), said in response to Bahçeli’s call. “Serious economic troubles have come to our doorstep. The fire of the exchange rates won’t die.”

The Iyi Party, a smaller, nationalist party that broke off from Bahçeli’s MHP, said it would welcome early elections and was ready to field its candidate for president, former Interior Minister Meral Akşener.

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