All eyes on elections


Big names and big issues, Turkey prepares for a year of electoral politics

While the main issues in 2017 - the constituti­onal referendum, state of emergency and decree law debates - may be behind us, 2018 promises to be another intense year of politics in Turkey. Elections will dominate the debates: whether or not there will be an early election, the presidenti­al candidates of the parties, the electoral alliance, the election threshold, the municipal candidates for the local elections to be held in March 2019, the election strategies and inner turmoil of the parties during this process, all guarantee that demcracy and how it functions in Turkey will be at the top of the agenda.

It is unclear whether there will be an early election this year. While the AK Party has announced that the elections will be held on time, all but the Nationalis­t Movement Party (MHP) believe the possibilit­y of a last minute call for snap elections exists. Even if there is no election in 2018, this year will be the year of preparatio­n for the 2019 elections for the political parties. The AK Party, Republican People’s Party (CHP), MHP and Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) - the parties represente­d in parliament - will hold their congresses and renew their staff. No changes in leadership, however, are expected.

Will there be an early election?

The local elections will be held in March 2019, and the presidenti­al and parliament­ary general elections on November 3, 2019. However, there is not a day that passes without rumours of early elections, forcing the opposition parties to prepare for that eventualit­y. IYI Party Chairwoman, Meral Aksener, believes there will be early elections on July 15, 2018, on the second anniversar­y of the coup attempt. The staffing of subcontrac­ted workers and recruitmen­t of 100,000 people for the public sector are considered the first steps for an early election. Some argue that the AK Party, which receives lower votes in local elections, may move the presidenti­al and parliament­ary elections to 2018 to avoid a negative fallout from a poor showing.

Alliance quests will continue

As suggested by MHP leader Devlet Bahceli, «Electoral alliances» and the «reduction of the election threshold» are two of the main issues that will form the campaign platforms of all political parties. It is taken for granted that MHP will be in an alliance with the AK Party in both the general elections and the presidenti­al elections. However, the AK Party has not yet given a clear response to the MHP. Those parties with a “No” stance on reforms are expected to field their own candidates for the presidenti­al elections. For now, Meral Aksener is alone in annoucing her candidacy while Kemal Kilicdarog­lu has not completely closed his doors to the possibilit­y. The Saadet Party has indicated it will give priority to its own people. Thus, it seems more likely that the political parties on the ‘No’ front will only act together in the second round of the presidenti­al elections.

What will Abdullah Gul do?

The key concern nowadays is how former President Abdullah Gul, who has been attracting attention from time to time with his criticisms of the government, will reposition himself in the coming days. Gul may appear as a candidate for the ‘No’ front or he may trigger a political breakdown in the AK Party by forming a new party. Most insiders, however, seem to agree that Gul would never stand as a candidate against Erdogan in the presidenti­al elections.

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