The reasons for snap elections in Turkey and Erdogan’s easy way to win
Seyed Mahdi Nabavi
Senior Research fellow at IIWFS
Over the past two years, Turkey’s political sphere has been accompanied by major and controversial developments. The unsuccessful coup and massive arrest of government opponents, challenges with the United States over the extradition of Fethullah Gülen and YPG, the referendum on the reform of the constitution and the change in the system of government, the military intervention in Syria and the occupation of Afrin were only part of these developments. Now Erdogan has started a new challenge and is looking for a snap election. He, who had repeatedly called the snap election supporters a traitor several times before, announced on April 18 that he will hold the presidential and parliamentary elections, approximately 17 months earlier than scheduled, on June 24, 2018. This issue was raised by Bahçeli, the National Movement Party’s leader, one day before its announcement by Erdogan’s government. The snap elections, scheduled by the Justice and Development and National Movement parties, was immediately passed to parliament and approved by the Turkish Parliamentary Election Commission.
When announcing this, Erdogan said that the decision was made to hold early presidential and parliamentary elections, taking into account the specific circumstances of the region, especially the crisis of Syria and the developments in Iraq. The spokesman for The Prime Minister of Turkey announced the move to thwart anti-Turkey initiatives. But it seems that there are more important reasons behind this decision. Here are some reasons:
1. One of the most important reasons for this decision is the probable negative impact of the economy on the upcoming elections in Turkey. Turkey’s economic growth has been the most important strength of the Justice and Development Party over more than 16 years of rule over Turkey. Though Turkey’s economic growth was about 7.4 percent in 2017, the general trend of Turkey’s economy and its outlook for next year is not clear, and it is likely to face serious problems. Turkey’s 2018 budget faces a potential deficit of $ 17 billion; The Turkish Lira against the dollar reached its lowest level of 4.13 last month. The foreign investment rate in Turkey in 2017 fell by 17% due to geopolitical tensions and domestic policy problems in Turkey. The IMF warned in February 2018 about the emergence of economic risk areas in Turkey, and such cases as foreign major financial needs, limited foreign exchange reserves, increased dependence on short-term capital flows, including Turkey’s economic turmoil. Therefore, fears of a downturn in the year leading up to the election and its negative impact on the Justice and Development Party’s vote can be considered as one of the reasons for the snap elections.
2. Another point is the use of the nationalist atmosphere resulting from the operation of the olive branch and the occupation of Afrin. Turkey faced a security problem affecting the crisis of Syria and the Kurdish forces’ growing power and managed to create an atmosphere of intense nationalism inside Turkey, with the occupation of Afrin and the defeat of the Kurdish forces in the absence of the interference of other actors, while enhancing the strength of the Syrian crisis and inducing the fight against terrorism inside Turkey and now it’s the best chance to wave on nationalist feelings and win votes.
3. The municipal elections next year and preventing its possible negative impact on the first Turkish presidential election with the new system is one of the things that can be part of the reasons for this decision.
But how will the presidential race be? Can Erdogan retain the power in Turkey’s politics, or can rivals stop him?
It seems that Erdogan will not have a hard path to win the presidential election and to gain more power in light of the President’s increased authority. The following can be attributed to this issue:
1. Opposition’s short time for preparation
By announcing snap election, Erdogan has made his opponents face a done deal and put them under pressure of the shortage of time and they have less than 66 days to plan and campaign. This will affect the opposition’s strategies for having a strong electoral campaign against the government.
2. The disintegration of the opposition
In recent polls in Turkey, the popularity of AK Party varies from 46% to 52%, with the highest percentage of CHP being about 30% and IYI Party, about 38%. The point is that Erdogan’s opposition parties do not have integrity, while he is a candidate for the three parties of Justice and Development, Nationalist Movement and Patriotic. His most important rivals are Meral Akşener of IYI Party and Muharram Ince of CHP. Opposition could not reach a single candidate and their votes goes for several candidates who cannot gain majority.
3. Erdogan’s media power
Despite the development of social networks, audio and visual media still have a significant impact in Turkey. The results of a study by the “Demokrasi için Birlik Association”, which consists of more than 100 organizations and institutions, according to records from the Radio and Television Council of Turkey (RTUK) indicate that out of a total of 17 major Turkish TV channels, from 1st to 20th March 2017, before the April referendum, 470 hours of live program were allocated to Erdogan and the AKP, while this amount was only 45 hours for the Republican People’s Party (CHP), and 15 hours for National Movement Party (MHP) . On the other hand, recently Turkey’s largest media group, the Doğan Media Group, a pro-government cluster company, has been sold to Demir ören’s holding company; So practically, most of the Turkish media are in the hands of the Justice and Development Party, which will be the party’s propaganda machine ahead of the election.
4. widespread arrests of political opponents
Turkey has been in a state of emergency since the coup, and recently its duration has been extended. The excuse of the coup and the establishment of a state of emergency allowed Erdogan to eliminate and imprison a large part of the opposition, get even with military and intelligence agencies as well as the government of Turkey, and pave the way for repression and singularity. This massive massacre of arrests of opponents and journalists has caused the freedom of expression in Turkey to be distorted; and the cost of opposing Erdogan’s policies would be higher and the possibility of maneuvering the opposition parties would be reduced.
5. New Electoral Rules
Another point is some of the electoral laws that were communicated and applied at the same time as the referendum. According to these rules, local election committees can take ballot boxes wherever they think it is necessary to take a vote؛ and even votes that do not have the specific seal of the election are counted. This is a risk that challenges the credibility of the election. The point that opposition parties objected during the referendum.
Finally, according to the points mentioned, if there is no particular incident that would impose a political earthquake on Turkey, it seems that Erdogan’s re-victory is not unexpected.