President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stunned his country by moving up the date of the crucial presidential and parliamentary elections from November 2019 to June 24. This shift comes at the back of brimming economic woes for Turkey. The Turkish lira has been falling and inflation steadily increasing, rattling investor confidence and forcing Turkey to lift interest rates. Sinan Ulgen, a Turkey specialist at the Carnegie Endowment says,
“I think there is an acknowledgement within the government that the economy will enter a more turbulent period ahead. Obviously, a slowdown would affect the popularity of Erdogan."
Another plausible reason to pre-pone the elections dates was to exclude the newly formed right-wing ‘Good Party’, by denying it time to fulfill all the conditions needed to qualify. However, this is where Erdogan’s attempt at fracturing and eliminating his opposition, surprisingly breathed new life into the opposition bloc. In a surprise move, 15 deputies from the centre-left Republican People’s Party (CHP), Turkey’s second-biggest political force, joined the fledgling Good Party at the weekend, giving the right-wing newcomer enough seats in parliament to qualify for the June 24 elections. Good leader Meral Aksener in a statement marveled,
“[CHP leader] Kemal Kilicdaroglu is beyond all praise... This is a democratic approach of historic proportions.”
In a sign of displeasure, Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yildirim walked out of a parliamentary session convened on the occasion of National Children’s Day when Good Party lawmaker Nuri Okutan took the floor. Aksener (pictured) riposted in the following tweet, "Just wait, on June 24, the people will walk away from you. "
Turkey has had a long history of dictatorships and coups. In 1923, Turkey became a secular republic with Atatürk as its president. He established a single party regime that lasted almost without interruption until 1945. The nation saw its first coup in 1960 against an increasingly authoritarian DP government. July 15, 2016 marked the latest attempt at a coup d’état. The coup leaders believed they were acting in a long Turkish military tradition of protecting Turkey’s democracy from its elected leaders. In an address to the nation via web video stream, Erdogan explained that the coup attempt came from "a faction in the military, the parallels.” Ever since, Erdogan has set himself on a mission to purge all sphere of Turkish politics of infidels. Within a few hours after retaking control of the government, Erdogan oversaw the dismissal and arrest of thousands of judges and prosecutors- the current tally stands at 4463.
According to turkeypurge.com, a website tracking the human rights violations in Turkey, 151,967 public servants (5,822 being academics) have been dismissed from their duties and 3,003 schools and universities have been shut down by the government. The government has shut down a total of 189 newspapers, television channels, radio stations and websites.
The opposition is now desperately striving to prevent Turkey’s transition into an absolute dictatorship. On Monday, CHP Chairman Kemal Kilicdaroglu met with his ideological opposite, the leader of the hard-line Islamist Felicity Party, to win his support for the motley cross-party alliance. Kilicdaroglu started courting Abdullah Gul, a onetime deputy of Erdogan. A reformist widely respected in international circles, Gul is viewed as the candidate most able to draw conservative, pious voters away from the AKP as well as attract Kurds, who constitute approximately 18% of the electorate.
In his speech to the AK party, broadcast live on television, Erdogan called the opposition’s efforts at solidarity “bizarre” and said the CHP lawmakers’ switch undermined voters’ will. It is ironic that Erdogan, who has been accused of fudging polls and suppressing all forms of opposition is seeking to champion the cause of the voters’ will. It is any one’s guess if they will be allowed to exercise their voice freely in the June 24 elections.