Are snap polls on Ankara’s horizon?

Ex-economy tsar Ali Babacan claimed that the president would not remain in power until 2023. (Social media)
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Updated 16 May 2020

Are snap polls on Ankara’s horizon?

  • Some opinion polls have also indicated a rise in popularity of Ahmet Davutoglu and Ali Babacan, the leaders of two alternative parties that broke away from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP)

ANKARA: The prospect of holding snap elections in Turkey has become the focus of debate recently in various political circles.
The potential election dates are predicted for November of this year or May 2021, rather than for 2023 as planned.
An enduring recession, skyrocketing unemployment rates reaching 14 percent and a freefall of the Turkish lira against the dollar are likely to exacerbate the economic fallout of the pandemic on different segments of society and could spark early elections.
Any sanctions over the acquisition of the $2.5 billion Russian-made S-400 defense system, either from the US if the system is activated or from Russia if it is kept on the shelves, may also devastate the national economy and increase popular dissatisfaction.
Some opinion polls have also indicated a rise in popularity of Ahmet Davutoglu and Ali Babacan, the leaders of two alternative parties that broke away from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP).
These two splinter parties — Babacan’s Democracy and Progress Party (DEVA) and Davutoglu’s Future Party — that appeal not only to the opposition but also to some disillusioned voters of the AKP are expected to receive about 10 percent of the votes. They are also expected to prevent the AKP from forming the majority in parliament even it forms an alliance again with the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP).
Similarly, Babacan, former economy tsar and once a close friend of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently claimed in an interview that the president would not remain in power until 2023.
Senior officials from the AKP deny for the moment any snap election to be on the country’s agenda, but popular debates on this possibility are brewing.
Professor Emre Erdogan, expert on electoral behavior from Istanbul Bilgi University, expects an early election by autumn 2022 at the latest.
“The election date will be decided upon by a majority in the parliament. Therefore, the AKP will need the support of its nationalistic ally. Now the key question is whether the date of the snap elections might be closer than 2022,” he told Arab News.

However, experts underline that the ongoing economic problems and the skyrocketing unemployment rates in the country, both of which preceded the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, may discourage the government from calling for immediate snap elections.
“The cost of the currency crisis of 2018 was paid with the loss of big cities like Istanbul, Ankara, Antalya and Adana to the opposition parties in the local elections,” Prof. Erdogan said.
Ankara Mayor Mansur Yavas, from the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP), has seen his approval rating rise recently with several fundraising campaigns that reached out to needy segments in the capital city. A recent poll by private pollster Metropoll on public perception of pandemic governance ranked him third, surpassing Erdogan, who came in fourth.
Yavas, a 64-year-old politician with a nationalistic background, is seen positively even by 80 percent of the mainly Kurdish People’s Democratic Party.
However, for Prof. Erdogan, the new parties attract more sympathy from voters of the opposition parties than voters of the AKP, whom they want to attract.
“Success of these new parties is contingent upon the failure of AKP-MHP alliance. As AKP voters switch at most to the MHP and not to the opposition parties despite the economic downturn, the new parties will not receive much electoral support unless there is a bigger economic crisis. Having said this, what is expected from them is to gain enough votes to prevent the AKP-MHP alliance from winning the election in the first round,” he said.
Soner Cagaptay, director of the Turkish Program at the Washington Institute, thinks early elections are not completely implausible.
“Erdogan might want to nip the opposition in the bud before it boils up further,” he told Arab News.
According to Cagaptay, democratic resilience is strong in Turkey, which has had a multiparty democracy since 1950 with fair and free elections.
He also said that the ruling AKP faces the challenge of a backlash from millennials — a generation that has not known economic crisis before and that is dissatisfied with the ruling government’s socially conservative policies.
“The biggest challenge is the economy. This might not be the right time because the economy is not doing so well, and Erdogan’s popularity is down. But his popularity will plummet further because the economy was already shrinking and entered recession for the first time since he came to power,” Cagaptay noted.
Experts therefore claim that the ruling government is likely to see an opportunity to go to snap elections before things get worse.
“Since 2018, Erdogan has lost his ability to be the leader always ahead of the curve in Turkish politics. There was a time when, whether you liked him or not, Erdogan represented change in Turkey; he was always the one who came up with ideas and or solutions and other people copied and followed him, including the opposition. Now it is opposition figures who come up with ideas, which Erdogan’s palace then coopts or embraces. We saw this in the response to every popular initiative launched to fight the pandemic, from lockdown to masks to fundraising campaigns. They were all launched by the opposition. At this stage, although Erdogan rules and governs Turkey, the opposition leads,” Cagaptay said.
In April 29, Canan Kaftancioglu, Istanbul district head for the CHP, noted during a televised speech that she expected early elections for a change in both the government and the governance system of the country, which switched to the controversial form of presidential system last year.
Kemal Kilicdaroglu, leader of the CHP, said on Thursday that a number of CHP lawmakers could leave the party and join the DEVA and Future parties to secure their participation into the elections and be represented in the parliament.

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

Updated 14 min 17 sec ago

LIVE: Middle East returns to normal life amid strict COVID-19 measures 

DUBAI: Efforts to return life gradually back to some kind of normality in parts of the Middle East continue, as governments get ready to reopen borders and airlines take bookings for flights. 
Tunisia said it will open its sea, land and air borders on June 27 in the hope of rescuing its tourism industry as the coronavirus pandemic comes under control.
Emirates airline also announced that it was taking bookings for flights from Dubai to 12 Arab countries from the start of July. Emirates began operating scheduled flight services to nine destinations around the world from May 21, including London Heathrow, Frankfurt, Paris, Milan, Madrid, Chicago, Toronto, Sydney and Melbourne.
Meanwhile, Lebanon’s commercial complexes, hotels, cafes and museums reopened their doors to customers on Monday after closing for two-and-a-half months. 

June 2, Tuesday (GMT Times)

09:34 - Formula One has unveiled an eight-race schedule in Europe from July 5 amid the coronavirus pandemic.

09:32 - Iran has reported 64 coronavirus deaths, 3,117 cases, raising total infected people to 157,562 with 7,942 fatalities.

09:20 - The number of coronavirus deaths in Britain is close to 50,000, Reuters reported.

09:07 – Hong Kong will extend restrictions on foreign visitors by another three months and an eight-person limit on group gatherings by two weeks, Health Secretary Sophia Chan said on Tuesday.
Both measures were due to expire later in June.
Travellers to Hong Kong need to undergo a mandatory 14 day quarantine period.

08:45 – 12,739 people died from coronavirus in England and Wales as of May 22, the Office for National Statistics said.

08:16 – Senegal has postponed the restart of schools until further notice after several teachers tested positive for the new coronavirus, the education ministry said late on Monday.

07:51 – Russia has confirmed 8,863 coronavirus cases and 182 deaths in the past 24 hours.

07:02 – A Wuhan doctor who worked with coronavirus whistleblower Li Wenliang died of the virus last week, state media reported Tuesday, becoming China's first COVID-19 fatality in weeks.
07:00 Paris gets some of its pre-lockdown life back as cafes and restaurants partially reopen Tuesday.
06:51 – The global coronavirus death toll has topped 375,000, according to AFP tally.

06:45 – The first Rohingya refugee died from coronavirus in Bangladesh, an official said.

05:59Egypt has sanitized prisons and carried out tests on prisoners across the country after banning visits to help curb the spread of coronavirus, local daily Egypt Today reported.

05:50 – A cluster of nine coronavirus cases raised concerns in Hong Kong over renewed local transmission in a city that has been one of the most successful in keeping the pandemic under control. 

05:18 – The United States on Monday recorded 743 new coronavirus deaths in 24 hours, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker, bringing its total to 105,099 since the global pandemic began.