Uncertainty to continue
An early election likely to follow referendum regardless of the result...
Time is running out before the constitutional referendum on April 16. Political parties are campaigning at full speed, and all eyes are on opinion polls. “No” votes appear to be dominating the Mediterranean and the Aegean regions, while “yes” votes prevail along the Black Sea and in central and eastern Anatolia.
The situation in southeastern Turkey is not as clear. Some within the AK Party say President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s rally in Diyarbakir on April 1 boosted “yes” votes there. Party leaders still see the educated Kurdish electorate who live in the region’s big cities voting “no,” and they expect the Kurdish vote will be higher than expected.
We will soon see whether voters will green-light the changes in Turkey’s political system. But either way, uncertainty seems unlikely to end even after the referendum. Should the referendum be approved, the debate will turn to the likelihood of an early election on the morning of April 17. Without ruling out the possibility of an early election, sources close to the president still point to Nov. 3, 2019, as the date when the constitutional amendment will go into effect. Meanwhile, the main opposition leader, Kemal Kilicdaroglu, has said, “I do not see the possibility of an early election if ‘no’ leads the poll.”
According to political sources, there are a few compelling reasons to hold a snap election. If voters approve the constitutional amendments, Erdogan will be able to officially reinstate his ties with the AK Party when the changes go into effect, meaning he will have to wait more than two years to resume his leadership of the party he founded. Sources say the AK Party is unlikely to wait that long and will instead want to adjust legislation required by the amendments and hold an early election in the autumn.
One argument they make for an early poll is the referendum campaign platform that a strong executive presidency is essential to combat terrorism, stabilize the country and boost the economy. Why wait two years if voters have given the mandate for the changes, they ask.
Another point made by the sources is that the fight against the political leg of the Gulen movement, blamed for the July 15 coup attempt, has so far been lacking. Holding an early election, regardless of the outcome of the referendum, would be an opportunity to remove suspected Gulenists from parliament. Kilicdaroglu’s claim last week that a document existed that showed between 120 to 180 people “in power” had used the ByLock instant messaging application, which authorities have said was the Gulenists’ preferred form of communication, has fueled this debate.
So, there seems to be a strong possibility of an election in the autumn, whether a “yes” or “no” vote emerges on April 16.