Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has proposed holding presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for June on May 14, bringing to mind a critical election held the same day decades ago, BBC’s Turkish edition reported.
Erdoğan’s suggestion came a day after his election ally, the far-right Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli, called for holding the elections in May.
The president said he is seeking the nation’s support for May 14, when the Democrat Party of former prime minister Adnan Menderes emerged victorious in 1950 in Turkey’s first free election, ending the 27-year-long Republican People’s Party (CHP) rule.
Menderes was toppled by a military junta in 1960 and executed a year later. Erdoğan was himself removed from office and briefly jailed when he was mayor of İstanbul in the 1990s and often compares himself to Menderes.
He said the nation will give the necessary answer to the opposition bloc, known as “Table of the Six,” who he described as “coup lovers.”
The opposition bloc, consisting of six opposition parties including the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the nationalist İYİ Party, has not yet announced their candidate, while Erdoğan has already declared that he will be the presidential candidate of the “Public Alliance,” comprising his Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the MHP.
He was elected president for a second five-year term in the June 2018 elections.
President Erdoğan, who until December ignored calls from opposition parties to hold the elections earlier, has recently softened his stance, with some in his party talking about holding the elections earlier than scheduled.
For parliament to call early elections, a majority of votes — 360 — is needed. Erdoğan’s AKP has 286 seats in parliament, while the MHP has 48, thus necessitating the support of opposition parties to pass the measure.
Opinion polls show support for the AKP and MHP in a downward trend, falling to as low as 37 percent from more than 50 percent.
‘Never write Erdogan off’
Erdoğan enters the election with his approval ratings bruised by a year-long economic crisis that saw inflation reach 85 percent late last year, according to Agence France-Presse.
But the fractured opposition has still not united around a single candidate after more than a year of heated talks.
Their best hope at one stage appeared to be İstanbul’s popular mayor Ekrem İmamoğlu.
The telegenic 52-year-old beat Erdoğan’s ally in the landmark 2019 municipal election in which the opposition was also swept to power in the capital city of Ankara and Turkey’s third-largest city, İzmir.
But a criminal court last month banned İmamoğlu from politics for calling officials who annulled his initial 2019 victory “idiots.”
İmamoğlu has appealed and can still technically run for president.
But if he won and his conviction for slander was eventually upheld, he would have to step down from office, making his candidacy too risky for the opposition.
CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu now appears like the most likely candidate to stand against Erdoğan.
But the 74-year-old former civil servant’s failure to light up opinion polls have caused divisions within the six opposition parties allied against Erdoğan.
The six have promised to finally agree on a single candidate once Erdoğan sets the election date.
“Now there is no other choice for the [opposition] but to determine the joint candidate as soon as possible and to stand behind this candidate with all their party organizations,” veteran Turkish journalist Kadri Gürsel tweeted.
The polls will also challenge Erdoğan’s control of parliament.
“Polls show the opposition in the lead but momentum seems to be back with Erdoğan,” emerging market economist and veteran Turkey watcher Timothy Ash wrote in a note to clients.
“I think the election really is too close to call, but I would never write Erdoğan off in any election.”