Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday that the country will hold snap parliamentary and presidential elections on June 24, more than a year earlier than they were due to take place.
The polls will be the first since a referendum last year that transformed Turkey’s parliamentary democracy into a powerful executive presidency and will hand the president sweeping new powers after the elections.
Many of the new powers were not expected to take effect until after the polls, which were scheduled to take place in November 2019. Now, the winner of June’s presidential vote – widely expected to be Erdogan – will be able to use them far quicker than had previously been planned.
“Even though it seems as if there are no serious issues because the administration and the presidency work compatibly, the diseases of the old system pop up at every step,” Erdogan said Wednesday. “The ability to make strong decisions and implement them for the future of our country has become more urgent.”
“It is imperative to eliminate the idea of elections quickly while there are very important decisions on issues such as the fast paced developments in Syria as well as macroeconomic issues and large investments,” Erdogan added.
The 64-year-old served as prime minister from 2003 until he was elected president in 2014. In April of last year, 51% of Turks voted in favor of the referendum that abolished the parliamentary system and could allow Erdogan to stay in power for another decade.
Under the new system, the president will be able to prepare the budget and appoint high-level officials, including ministers and judges. In addition, the president will be able to declare a state of emergency, a power currently held by the government. The president could also in some circumstances dissolve parliament.
Why call a snap election now?
Erdogan’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) had previously been wary of calling early elections, but a highly fluctuating economy combined with the president’s desire to switch to Turkey’s new governmental system led to a rethink.
Turkey has been in a state of emergency since a failed military coup in 2016. Since then, Erdogan has cracked down on dissent, and thousands of people – including political opponents, civil servants, journalists and police – have been jailed.
Turkey is also conducting a military operation targeting Kurdish groups in northwest Syria to clear the border area of militias it considers to be terrorist organizations.
The AKP would like to keep the state of emergency in place throughout the election cycle, though the detrimental effect it has had on the economy means the party would not want to sustain it beyond the vote.
The ruling AKP is expected to campaign in an alliance with the minority Nationalist Movement Party, whose leader had lobbied for early elections.
The main opposition CHP party, the Republican People’s Party, is expected to run alone but has not named a presidential candidate as of yet.
CNN’s Gul Tuyusz reported from Istanbul. James Masters wrote from London.