Although both Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan and his unofficial coalition partner Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) leader Devlet Bahçeli almost every day say, “There is no early election,” the claims that early elections will be announced this fall are incessant. The allegations became flesh and bone when the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu said, “They can’t handle the economy, I’m waiting for an election in November.” Just yesterday, before meeting with Erdoğan on June 7, Bahçeli once more said the elections would take place on time, June 18, 2023, reiterating that Erdoğan is the Presidential candidate of their People Alliance.
Yet, Bahçeli is renowned for altering political positions rapidly in the face of changing political winds. No, I’m not only talking about the evolution of Bahçeli from Erdoğan’s most ardent opponent to his most ardent supporter. Since 2002, there has not been a single early election, re-election, or referendum that has not been held on the initiative of Bahçeli. He is the lord of the early elections. Just because the nationalist leader didn’t call for early elections today, there’s no guarantee he won’t do it tomorrow morning.
The reason behind the early election calls
The most relevant peg of those who forecast early elections, including Kılıçdaroğlu, is the economy. According to this reasoning, Erdoğan will go to the early elections with the concern that the economy could go worse, so his loss would be less, sooner the better. As if there was a guarantee for him to win in November.
These allegations go as far as that Erdoğan will nominate the Minister of National Defense Hulusi Akar, in case he understands that he will lose the presidency. Those who support this allegation overlook the fact that Erdoğan’s stay in power has been the focus of everything that has been done in the last few years, including the transition to the presidential system; Erdoğan’s power, not necessarily his Justice and Development Party’s (AKP). If Erdoğan is not in power, the AKP, which has already been on the decline, is doomed to wither away. Unless Erdoğan is personally in power, the MHP will also be out of parliament. But there is a difference. MHP has been out of the parliament before, but because it is a party with an ideologically strong base managed to come back.
The first counter-point against the early election claims this fall is the economy.
For two reasons and unless these two reasons change, the probability of recovery until November is very weak, if not non-existent. The first of these is Erdoğan’s “interest rates is the cause, high inflation is the result” stubbornness, and the other is the absence of the possibility of ending the Russia-Ukraine war this year. While the majority of the Turkish people consider the cost of living and unemployment to be the biggest problem, the polls show and believe that the economy will get worse, I do not think that Erdogan, who is an experienced politician, will risk leaving his seat months ago.
The second reason is Bahçeli and the MHP. The changes in the election law, which lowered the threshold from 10 percent to 7 percent, went into effect in April. According to the constitution, it is not applicable before a year. This means that in an election to be held before April 6, 2023, the 10 percent threshold will apply, not 7 percent. In his address to the MHP deputies in the Parliament Bahçeli slammed the polls (almost all of them) showing MHP below 10 percent, and around 7, saying that his party “did not exist with surveys and will not be erased by them”.
Like committing political suicide
Kılıçdaroğlu calls for early elections to put Erdoğan in a difficult position in the eyes of the voters. It is a tactic widely used in Turkish politics.
However, it should be kept in mind that due to the worsening state of the economy, and the situation of the MHP, holding early elections under the current conditions could also turn into committing political suicide for Erdoğan.