The people of Türkiye will do whatever is necessary on May 14, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said Wednesday, all but confirming the date for Türkiye’s much-anticipated elections in the wake of the devastating earthquakes that claimed over 45,000 lives.
Addressing his ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) meeting in Parliament in the capital Ankara, Erdoğan hit back at his opposition “for failing to address the needs and pain of the people” and said his administration’s priority was on earthquake recovery for now.
His remarks followed a slew of accusations from his opposition who claimed Erdoğan’s government had been “late” in responding to the disaster on Feb. 6, and “ill-prepared” ahead of the tremors.
Erdoğan listed the search and rescue operations and recovery efforts that were deployed in the immediate aftermath of the earthquakes, saying, “The state has been on the ground since the first hour.”
The president also censured the opposition parties for “chasing political clout” after the catastrophe while the people have been “fighting for their lives”.
“We leave those who haven’t found the time to care for our people’s troubles while quarreling over (presidential) candidacy to their shallow world,” he said.
The six-party alliance announced earlier this week they would name their much-anticipated candidate for the upcoming elections on March 2.
The alliance, commonly dubbed the “table for six”, has been delaying settling on a candidate for the past year since the election atmosphere has gripped Türkiye. They were scheduled to reveal their nominee on Feb. 13, a date announced before the Feb. 6 earthquakes in Türkiye’s south. The deadly catastrophe upended the country’s agenda and politicians are now focused on mobilization for earthquake victims.
Following the earthquakes, a debate started on the postponement of elections but the opposition parties have announced that the vote should go ahead as planned on May 14. An official from the AK Party dismissed the idea of postponing the elections in statements on Monday.
A delegation from the Supreme Election Board (YSK) left for earthquake-hit areas on Monday to examine whether a secure election is possible in the region. They will also look into possibly setting up polling stations at “tent and container cities” where earthquake survivors are currently accommodated.
The IP trails closely behind the Republican People’s Party (CHP) in election polls and the two parties are the strongest in the alliance. IP Chair Meral Akşener and CHP leader Kemal Kılıçdaroğlu met on Monday ahead of Thursday’s meeting for what the media has called “a bargaining for a candidate”.
Two parties have been at odds on several issues and Akşener has not refrained from criticism of Kılıçdaroğlu for failing to show up in solidarity with CHP’s Istanbul Mayor Ekrem Imamoğlu after the latter was sentenced by a court in an insult case.
The table for six candidates will face Erdoğan, who enjoys longstanding popularity thanks to his successive victories in all elections in the past two decades.
The parties’ consistent objections to urban transformation, an ambitious project by the AK Party to renew, rebuild or replace decrepit buildings that cannot endure major earthquakes like disasters, have also come to the foreground after the Feb. 6 catastrophe.
The CHP, being the most vocal opponent, has also filed lawsuits to halt renewal projects across several provinces.
Erdoğan on Wednesday reiterated their determination to continue the project, with a particular focus in the affected regions.
“With a project that cannot be prevented by personal ambitions, we will swiftly handle this business,” he told the assembly. “Earthquakes don’t wait for anyone’s pleasure on inadequacy. We will make our country prepared against disasters as soon as possible.”