Fragility in the economy and the Reza Zarrab trial in the USA, whose outcome is considered likely to impact on this, and, domestically, tension over money going abroad that has come to a fresh head thanks to CHP General Chair Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu and an early election have become the main preoccupations in the Ankara lobbies. Despite President Tayyip Erdoğan’s constant pronouncements that the elections will be held in 2019, ever since the internal party operations in the AKP the possibility of an early election has featured prominently in political conversations. However, since last week, the option of bringing the election forward has begun to be mooted with greater urgency.
-Increasingly adverse conditions: The main cause of this is uncertainty in the economy attributable above all to exchange rate movements. This fragility in the economy and the ongoing Zarrab trial in the USA, and analyses that the results that may emerge from this trial could further aggravate potential negative impacts on Turkey, are heightening the expectation of an early election. There is a general consensus that certain difficulties the Zarrab trial may visit on Turkey will require urgent measures in the economy. Concerns are being voiced that while for some time the state of the economy had been set to worsen anyhow if certain measures were not taken, the Zarrab trial may exert compounding effects.
-To enable harsh measures: The trend in the economy, provoking comments that things cannot be left as they are any longer, is regarded as being the prime reason for an early election. Hence, after the effects of the Zarrab trial have been seen, the economy will be eyed up and an election will be held at what appears to be the earliest possible date. What is precluding a harsh intervention in the economy at this stage is said to be the prospect facing the ruling party of local elections in at least one and a half years and presidential and parliamentary elections in two years. Views are doing the rounds that, if the elections are brought forward and won, decisions that are detrimental to workers and the wide masses can be more easily taken and belt-tightening policies can be introduced. Such opinions are giving rise to the view being formulated that, “The economy cannot wait for 2019, nor can Erdoğan.”
-The election card: It is also pointed out in the lobbies that an early election may deliver a message to the outside world. The thinking is that an early election could serve as a card in hand to counter the Zarrab trial or certain other accusations against Turkey in the USA and criticism that may come from EU countries along the same lines. The message given to the outside world through an early election would be, “We will see what our people say with reference to all the controversy over us. They will deliver their verdict at the ballot box. At the same time, there will be a vote on the accusations you are raising against us. If the people vote for us, aspersions coming from other countries have no importance.” It is also envisaged that accusations against Turkey emanating from abroad will be deferred or else toned down because an early election has been decided on.
-Stand-off thanks to Kılıçdaroğlu: A further factor increasing the possibility of an early election appears to be the domestic stand-off resulting from the controversy over money being sent abroad that Kılıçdaroğlu has raised. The word is that the AKP will campaign around these intensifying polemics to harvest votes by fomenting an AKP-CHP polarisation in the early election.
-Persuading the MHP with an alliance: The sole contrary factor cited that may detract from this expectation of an early election in the lobbies is the MHP’s opposition to an early election. However, rapid moves to dispel this took place over this week. MHP leader Devlet Bahçeli initially wanted a reduction in the electoral threshold and then for the election to be held under alliances for which statutory provision would be made. And Erdoğan assembled his staff and speeded up work on enabling statues, chiefly for parties to form alliances. The coming days are expected to see parliament engage in the making of statutory arrangements that will give legality to an AKP-MHP alliance. The word in the lobbies is that the BBP, which was part of the “yes” block in the 16 April referendum, will also join the AKP-MHP alliance.
The hasty passing of the law regulating the restructuring of the Supreme Electoral Council was also seen as harbingering an early election. As to the date of the early election, the AKP’s ordinary congress set for February is spoken of as being the starting point. The view being voiced is that the early election process will start following this congress.