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Turkey's President Erdogan announces early elections

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The elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since the failed coup in 2016.

President Tayyip Erdogan on Wednesday called snap elections for June 24, saying economic challenges and the war in Syria meant Turkey must switch quickly to the powerful executive presidency that goes into effect after the vote.

The presidential and parliamentary elections will take place under a state of emergency that has been in place since an attempted coup in July 2016. It was extended by parliament on Wednesday for another three months.

In 15 years of rule as prime minister and then president, Erdogan has transformed a poor, sprawling country at the eastern edge of Europe into a major emerging market. But Turkey’s rapid growth has come been accompanied by increased authoritarianism, with a security crackdown since the failed coup leading to the arrest of tens of thousands.

Last year, Erdogan narrowly won a referendum to change the constitution and create the executive presidency. The changes take effect with the next presidential vote.

The government had repeatedly denied reports it would bring forward the elections, which were not due until November 2019, but Erdogan said Turkey should leave political uncertainty behind.

Citing its military operations in neighboring Syria and the need to make important decisions on investments and an economy unlikely to maintain last year’s sharp growth, he said it was necessary “to remove the election issue from our agenda”.

Turkey must “switch to the new executive system in order to take steps for our country’s future in a stronger way,” he said in an address from the presidential palace in Ankara, flanked by rows of Turkish flags and broadcast live on television.

“By calling snap elections for June, Erdogan is signaling that he believes his support, at least for the near future, has peaked. He may well be worried that if Turkey’s economic problems continue to worsen it will take a toll on his support,” said Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst at the Bipartisan Policy Centre in Washington.

The announcement was made after Erdogan held talks with the head of the nationalist MHP party, Devlet Bahceli, who a day earlier had floated the prospect of an early election. Bahceli’s small MHP party is expected to form an alliance with Erdogan’s AK Party in the parliamentary election.

Three hours after Erdogan’s declaration, the High Electoral Board said it had completed all preparations for early elections and was waiting for approval from parliament, where the AKP has a majority.


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