The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan will insist on holding presidential and parliamentary elections on 14 May, as it is the date indicated by his spiritual advisors, and it is politically expedient for him to do so, wrote Sedat Bozkurt, a Kısa Dalga columnist, on Sunday.
The date of the coming elections in Turkey have been widely discussed following the double earthquake that hit an area populated by 13.5 million people in the south of the country on 6 February.
Before the earthquake, the government was expected to propose holding elections on 14 May instead of 18 June, the constitutionally set date. However, since the earthquake journalists and politicians have started speculating on whether the elections will be postponed on the grounds of the massive destruction caused by the disaster.
The elections debates escalated after Bülent Arınç, a founder of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) sidelined by Erdoğan, shared a statement advising political parties to agree on a date after the constitutionally set deadline, adding that he would prefer holding the coming presidentital and parliamentary elections and together with local elections some time in 2024.
Arınç said on Friday that chaos would reign if parties failed to agree on postponment of the elections.
Senior figures in the AKP have declined to comment on the election date since the earthquake, saying it is not a proper time to discuss politics. But an unnamed source in the party told Reuters that elections could be postponed, while some party officials have told the Turkish media that Arınç’s comments did not represent the party’s position.
There have been rumours for years that Erdoğan has tended to ask the opinions of spiritual advisers before setting dates for critical events like elections. In fact, straight after the 14 May date was mentioned by the president, people in Turkey started advising each other to watch YouTube videos of astrologists who were saying that the positions of the stars on that date would favour Erdoğan.
Arınç’s proposal would mean that Erdoğan and the leaders of opposition parties would have to act together to amend the Constitution to allow postponment of the elections as required in times of disaster, Sedat Bozkurt said. According to the columnist, Arınç’s comments had particularly disturbed the AKP and its ally the Nationalist Movement Party (MHP) as they had wanted the debate to be initiated by other actors such as the Supreme Electoral Board (YSK), which is able to say that postponment of the elections is necessary on gournds that preparations cannot be completed on time.
Postponment of the elections to a date after 18 June would create additional complications, Bozkurt stressed, as the official mandate of the current government and parliament ends as of that date. The Turkish Constitution allows the postponment of elections only in times of war, and its article 101 stipulates that the current president will continue to serve in case “the elections are not completed”. Turkey might suddenly find itself under the rule of a single man with no parliamentary oversight, the columnist noted.
“Erdoğan is experiencing the most challenging period of his political life,” Bozkurt said, adding that the earthquake has hampered all the calculations Erdoğan had made on the basis of elections being held on 14 May.
“Erdoğan will insist on 14 May as the election date. Because hodjas whose “heart eyes are open” [an idiom in Turkish that implies spiritual powers] have indicated this date. It is also a necessity for him politically. He will insist on 14 May so that in case the elections do need to be postponed, this will be initiated not by him but by the Supreme Election Board,” Bozkurt said.
The columnist said a decision to postpone elections on the grounds of an Electoral Board announcement stressing technical difficulties would bring some relief to Erdoğan.
“In fact, the Erdoğan we know could pull out some type of victimhood from that,” Bozkurt said.
Meanwhile a journalist close to the AKP, Kübra Par, said on Sunday in her Habertürk column that according to her sources the AKP and the MHP had been in favour of holding the elections on 14 May rather than postponing them.
The journalist recalled that the opposition parties have postponed deciding on their presidential candidate because of earthquake relief work. “If they waste time, thinking the elections will be postponed, they might all of a sudden wake up one morning to the news of an election,” she said.