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DEVA Party leader Ali Babacan and his wife Zeynep Babacan attending the October 10-12 meetings in Diyarbakır, Batman, Bitlis, and Van. In a recent meeting, he explained his prediction that Erdoğan may go for early elections. (Photo: Özgür Mercan)

President Tayyip Erdoğan and his election partner MHP (Nationalist Movement Party) leader Devlet Bahçeli reiterate that there will be no early elections. The election is expected to take place in June 2023. But DEVA Party leader Ali Babacan insists on the claim that Erdoğan will hold early elections. He even narrowed down his prediction from “2021 or 2022” to “the second half of 2021 and the first half of 2022”. Babacan claims that Erdoğan could “opt for early elections.” Not just due to the worsening of the economy. It could also “extend the total duration of his Presidency.” Babacan made this claim at an online meeting organized by the UK-based “Democratic Progress Institute” on October 13. There are two reasons he so relies on his early election forecast.

Early elections to be a candidate again?

1- Economic justification: According to Babacan, the government’s “monetary and fiscal policies have reached the limit.” The biggest problem is the growing unemployment and cost of living. “Life is getting harder for citizens.” Exports are decreasing while imports increase. More money is spent on energy imports due to the growing exchange rate gap. The Central Bank’s loss of independence and the inconsistencies in monetary policy damage the confidence environment. Capital outflow accelerates as a result. Babacan says that the Turkish economy has “rapidly” reached its “sustainability limit.”

2- Political justification: Babacan thinks that, since the 2018 June elections, AKP’s (Justice and Development Party) “political capital” has been “coming to an end with each passing month;” economic reasons played a big part. The party can now only maintain its power through coalitions and alliances. But its political legitimacy is weakening, though its legal standing remains. “To overcome this, Erdoğan can go for early elections without facing further wear and tear. He can thus try to surpass the argument that he cannot be a presidential candidate again.” “There is one article in the Constitution,” added Babacan during the meeting. “At the event of an early election, the President’s term of office is considered incomplete,” he continued. “He may apply this method to extend his total term of office. “

The mine in Article 116 of the Constitution

Babacan did not utter its name. However, when I later asked one of Babacan’s staff if he meant Article 116, the answer was “Yes, that article”.
The third sentence of Article 116 titled “Renewal of Parliamentary and Presidential” elections is as follows:
“If the Assembly decides to renew the elections during the second term of the President of the Republic, he/she may once again be a candidate.”
That is if elections took place a few months before the expected date of June 2023. Then, according to this article of the Constitution, Erdoğan could be a candidate again, as his presidential term since 2018 wouldn’t count.
The Presidential elections were used to justify the pressure the AKP-MHP ruling bloc has been putting on the Constitutional Court for a while.

According to the allegations in the political backstage, the ruling bloc already wanted to prevent the opposition from going to the Constitutional Court to prevent Erdoğan, who was elected President by the people in 2018, from being a candidate again.
Babacan thus argues that Erdoğan can be a candidate again by going to early elections at the end of 2021 and the beginning of 2022. He wouldn’t even need to enter into this debate.

Alliances, the Kurdish issue, violence against women

Babacan clarified his messages on three more issues during the meeting on October 13. But the possibility of early elections was not the only issue discussed. The following crucial issues of contemporary Turkish politics were also brought up:
1- “We are a new party, people need to get to know us first. We currently have no alliance policy. We will look into the issue of coalitions on the day the election decision is made.”
2- “We see the Kurdish issue as a matter of human rights, freedoms, and democracy. The state should do what it takes to protect and develop the Kurdish people’s mother tongue.”
3- “Prevention of violence against women is not a matter of ifs and buts. Violence against women cannot be justified. The Istanbul Convention must be preserved.”

The Syria issue came up too. Babacan, who was the Foreign Minister before the Syrian war broke out between 2007 and 2009, and who served as Deputy Prime Minister responsible for the economy until 2015, said: “Often what gets asked is ‘what went wrong’, but what was done right anyway? An out-of-control self-confidence and narrow ideological outlook brought us to this state.
Out of control self-confidence and narrow ideological view… These are also claims that are open to discussion.
But I think the most important part of the meeting was the connection Babacan established between holding early elections and the preservation of Erdoğan’s Presidential candidacy.