Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, leader of the ruling Justice & Development Party (AKP), has announced that scheduled Presidential and Parliamentary elections in November 2019 have been brought forward to 24th June 2018.
Mr Erdogan has dominated Turkish politics since 2003 through his role as Prime Minister, and then his subsequent election as President in 2014. After surviving an attempted military coup in 2016, widely condemned by political parties across the spectrum, Mr Erdogan sought to centralise power by calling a constitutional referendum in what critics accuse of being an authoritarian move.
The AKP and MHP backed referendum in April 2017 was successful by a slim margin of 51.4% to 49.6%. The ‘yes’ vote ushered in a total of 18 amendments, the most dramatic of those being a change from a Parliamentary system to an Executive Presidency. This change to Article 104 widens the powers of the Turkish President making the incumbent head of state, and head of government, and gives them the authority to directly appoint members of the judiciary. The result of the referendum was contested by the CHP after allegations of ballot fraud.
The referendum determined that the constitutional amendments do not come into effect until the next Presidential elections, originally planned for November 2019. With the recent announcement of a political alliance between AKP and MHP, it appears clear that Mr Erdogan wishes to establish a five-year mandate with the new powers and responsibilities of President. With strong control over multiple media outlets, and support for the AKP at the last election giving them 313 out of 550 Parliamentary seats, Mr Erdogan has a favourable advantage. His supporters applaud a range of his policies including the success of his economic stimulus policies giving growth of 7.4% in 2017 (the highest of any G20 state), and what some see as his defence of traditional Islamic values.
Mr Erdogan will be hoping for a pre-emptive strike to secure his position as support for the İoppositionİ continues to grow, and the possibility of economic woe around the corner with the Lira continuing to devalue against the US dollar, and inflation reaching double digits again, placing pressure on the government.