Commentary:  Is Turkey heading for snap elections?

Turkey’s regularly scheduled presidential and parliamentary elections (hold simultaneously) will take place in June 2023. However, if you ask the opposition, or experts PATurkey deems impartial, snap elections are around the corner. Traditionally, elections are preceded by massive pork barreling, jingoistic foreign policy, divisive rhetoric to polarize AKP-MHP voters as well as well  intimidation of opposition.


Currently, some of these pre-conditions are in place, supporting the speculation about snap elections, while others are light years away.  In some sense, policy and acts have lost their signaling value.


For instance, interest rates are artificially low, while state lenders began pumping cheap credit to residents and corporates alike. The minimum  wage was hiked by 50% at the turn of the year. Erdogan and his ally Bahceli recently threatened opposition voters with violence, if they take their grievances to the streets.  Istanbul’s popular CHP major Mr Ekrem Imamoglu is being probed for hiring terrorists to municipality jobs. Bahceli wants him sacked.  Imamoglu is currently the best-performing candidate against Erdogan in horse-race polls. These are all harbingers of a snap poll. Yet, AKP-MHP vehemently deny early elections, heralding that amendments to the Election  Law, which can not be implemented in elections if they were to be held within the succeeding 12 months, shall be introduced to the Grand Assembly in March. Why in March, “because” says the AKP-MHP corner, “we want to bat away all rumors of early polls definitely with this move”.

At the end, of course, it will come down to polls.  The impartial pundits crowd proposes that Erdogan will surprise the opposition if and when he sense the change of the tide in polls. Yet, so far his heterodox polices delivered little relief from economic misery to even his own constituents, much less to voters of AKP ally MHP.


So, where do we stand with elections?  I humbly collected views from experts to find some preliminary answers to this question, which can make some global investors rich. Mots others, will not set foot in Turkey, until they see the back of Erdogan. Spoiler alert, my information set doesn’t lead to a definitive conclusion about early elections. However, I may add that no matter what the intentions of Erdogan and Bahceli are, Erdogan will not call for elections before March, if he prefers a poll data in June.



CHP leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu:  Polls due September 2022



Main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu has predicted the elections will take place in September, nine months before the scheduled time, as he believes that the government would not be able to run the economy properly.

“My prediction is that the elections will be held in September,” Kilicdaroglu said in a televised interview late Jan. 8.


Kilicdaroglu said they would topple the current government by winning the upcoming elections. On a question about the presidential candidate of the opposition alliance, Kilicdaroglu repeated that the decision over who will run for the presidency will be given by the components of the opposition alliance, the Nation Alliance, comprised of the CHP, the İYİ (Good) Party, the Democrat Party and the Felicity Party.


“Our nominee will run against the [executive-presidential] system,” he suggested.



A proponent of early elections

A very precise opinion comes from bne Intellinews, which lays out the positive case for global investors


“The only hope for the country is that the Erdogan administration will chance its arm in a snap poll. Ever since the regime lost the Istanbul mayoral election, plus a rerun, in 2019, we have, rather than posing the question of whether Erdogan will lose the next parliamentary and presidential elections, pondered  whether any election will be held.


The election does not need to be “fair”. Erdogan will lose any election.


In this most positive case, Turkish assets, led by the lira, would see a sharp rally. It would begin as soon as the market became convinced that Erdogan would have to hand over the reins of power. Turkey would then fall into another “hot money trap”, as all “semi-colonies” do. An actual recovery, which could be described as at least returning to the 2015 settings, would require, at a minimum, five years of uninterrupted healing, with the program to cover each and every corner of life”.



Not every expert is impressed by the case for early elections


Eurasia Group was less impressed by the case for early elections, while at the same time labeling Turkey as one of 10 great risks facing the World in 2022:

“Erdogan will drag Turkey’s economy and international standing to new lows in 2022 as he tries to reverse his plunging poll numbers ahead of elections in 2023. Unemployment and inflation are high, and the lira is weaker and more volatile, but Erdogan has rejected orthodox economic management. His foreign policy will grow more combative this year to distract voters from the economic crisis. In the unlikely event of early elections in 2022, all these risks will be exacerbated”.


Andrew Wilks writing  for the National comments


Turkey is due to hold elections by mid-2023 but given the economic situation many feel Mr Erdogan, whose poll ratings have mirrored the trajectory of the economy, will call an early vote if there is any sign of improvement.


In recent weeks the president has introduced a number of measures to ease the public’s woes, including a 50 per cent rise in the minimum wage and income rises for pensioners and civil servants.


Many predict the allowances will be gobbled up by inflation, which independent economists at the Inflation Research Group put at a startling 83 per cent for the year.


A survey last month by respected polling firm MetroPoll showed that six in 10 Turks felt prices had at least doubled over the year.


Wilks carries out his theory of early elections in an al Monitor article:


Meanwhile, Erdogan seems to be weighing his timetable for the forthcoming elections.


“I suspect that in six months the economic situation will be much worse,” Esen said. “It’s in his interest to have early elections, but I don’t know if he has the support to win, which, to a rational politician, would mean no early elections.”


He added, “He’s looking at opinion polls regularly, trying to find that most opportune moment for early elections. That could be in three months’ time, six months’ time or much later. It all depends on how the opinion polls show him doing.”


WATCH: Turkish Opposition is Marching to Power | Real Turkey


Turkey’s opposition bloc ahead of ruling party alliance in 103 election polls


What about polls? They whisper “not yet”


Turkey’s opposition bloc is leaving the ruling party’s alliance behind according to the results of a study of 103 polls conducted by a variety of pollsters, the Kronos news website reported on Friday.


The Nation Alliance, consisting of the main opposition Republican People’s Party (CHP) and the İYİ (Good) Party, has managed to secure more support than the Public Alliance, made up of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP), according to a study combining the results of 103 surveys conducted by 21 polling companies.


The results of the study were announced by Kemal Özkiraz, president of the Eurasia Public Research Center (AKAM), on TELE 1 on Thursday.



WATCH:  Turkey Heading for Early Elections | Real Turkey


Total support for the CHP and the İYİ Party was 4 percentage points on average above that for the AKP and MHP, Özkiraz said, noting that the average support for the parties was calculated by omitting the results of polls that reported the highest and lowest amount of support for the party in question.


Özkiraz indicated that when undecided voters were distributed among parties, potential votes for the AKP declined to 31 percent in December from 37 percent in January of last year.


Referring to the drop in support for the Public Alliance’s members as a “systematic decline,” Özkiraz reported that support for the MHP dropped to 7.3 percent in December from 9.2 percent in January 2021.


“Public support for the CHP was 24.1 percent in January but rose to 26.7 percent in December. Support for the İYİ Party rose from 13.5 in January to 14.8 percent in December,” Özkiraz said regarding the situation of the Nation Alliance.


He further noted that support for the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) has consistently remained above the 10 percent election threshold.


The 10 percent election threshold, which is much higher than thresholds in democratic nations, has been a subject of criticism for years for being anti-democratic and an obstacle barring small parties from entering parliament. It was enacted following a military coup in 1980 and has remained in place despite calls to lower it.


The AKP has plans to reduce Turkey’s election threshold to 7 percent as the public support of its ally, MHP, is not adequate to push it over the current threshold.


In the last general election, held in June 2018, the AKP garnered a nationwide vote of 42.6 percent. However, public surveys have increasingly been showing the party’s public support to be slipping.


Erdogan, whose ruling AKP has been in power as a single party government since 2002, was elected president in 2014 and reelected in 2018. His election in 2018 was under a presidential system as Turkey switched from a parliamentary to a presidential system of governance after a public referendum in 2017. Under the presidential system, Erdogan is accused of establishing one-man rule, destroying the separation of powers and silencing dissent.


The survey also comes amid a deteriorating economy in Turkey, where the lira has been plunging to record lows, accelerating inflation and eroding people’s purchasing power and making even basic commodities unaffordable.



Damon H. Grande


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Published By: Atilla Yeşilada

GlobalSource Partners’ Turkey Country Analyst Atilla Yesilada is the country’s leading political analyst and commentator. He is known throughout the finance and political science world for his thorough and outspoken coverage of Turkey’s political and financial developments. In addition to his extensive writing schedule, he is often called upon to provide his political expertise on major radio and television channels. Based in Istanbul, Atilla is co-founder of the information platform Istanbul Analytics and is one of GlobalSource’s local partners in Turkey. In addition to his consulting work and speaking engagements throughout the US, Europe and the Middle East, he writes regular columns for Turkey’s leading financial websites VATAN and and has contributed to the financial daily Referans and the liberal daily Radikal.