The earthquake has become a major factor at the upcoming Turkish elections turmoil


One week have passed since Türkiye and Syria were hit by a devastating earthquake that left thousands of dead, injured and displaced people in both countries.

And with the death toll of the earthquake reaching 40,000 thousand people, as rescue operation and relief operations are ongoing, Türkiye is facing today a huge challenges, especially for the Turkish government, which is preparing with its ruling party The Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its leader, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, for the upcoming elections next May, which after the earthquake has become more fateful than ever.

Türkiye’s devastating earthquake has thrown plans for elections by June into turmoil, sparking heated debate within President Tayyip Erdogan’s government and opposition parties over a possible delay.

Even before the earthquake disaster, the deadliest in the country’s modern history, opinion polls indicated that the Turkish presidential and parliamentary elections were very tight.

Among many other factors, there’s no doubt that the earthquake disaster become an influencing among other factors, with possible scenarios.

The earthquake disaster revealed logistical difficulties in multiple sectors, especially with the biggest of them all, which is finding shelter for thousands, perhaps millions of people, with hundreds of thousands houses, buildings, apartments are now either destroyed or unsafe.

Last month the Turkish president, who is seeking to extend his rule and that of his Justice and Development Party (AKP) into a third decade, said that the elections would be held in May, a month ahead of schedule.

But his allies have indicated in the past few days that he will seek a delay.

An AKP official told Reuters reporter, “Referring to the state of emergency… I don’t think the time is right to talk about elections, so there must be some delay”.

Another official said last week that the scale of the destruction made it serious difficulties for voting to take place on time.

According to the current situation, any attempt to postpone elections will face a major constitutional hurdle, which is mentioned at the Article 78 states that parliament can postpone elections for a year but only in case of war.

Former Deputy Prime Minister Bulent Arinc, a co-founder of Erdogan’s Justice and Development Party, called on Monday for a postponement of the vote and said constitutions weren’t sacred texts.

“The elections should be postponed immediately so that the state organs can focus on helping our citizens heal their wounds… This is not an option, but a necessity” Arinc said in a statement that some observers considered the earthquake to be a test to measure the general mood in Türkiye.

The issue was to be raised at a cabinet meeting chaired by Erdogan on Tuesday afternoon.

The major opposition party in Türkiye, the party of the modern Turkish Republic founder, Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the Republican People’s Party (CHP), leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu rejected the delay on the grounds that the constitution is clear on the issue.

Kilicdaroglu said during an interview, “No one can create their own legal standard by fabricating justifications other than the constitution and laws… There is a constitution… If we say that Türkiye is a state of law, there can be no delay”.

Kilicdaroglu said that “The priority is to set a date for the elections and to have the Supreme Elections Council begin preparations”.

However, the Turkish opposition parties faces its own challenges as well, as the six-party alliance of major opposition parties seeking to oust Erdogan hasn’t yet announced their presidential candidate and there has been some discord among its leadership.

An official from the Good Party (IYI), which is with the (CHP) in the coalition, said they would discuss the candidate’s issue in the coming weeks.

Latest opinion polls survey which was published before the earthquake had suggested the vote would be Erdogan’s toughest electoral challenge yet, with his popularity eroding due to economic situation as the rising cost of living and the Turkish Lira lost much of its value.

Thus, with the economic struggle, the earthquake came to cause more uncertainty.

The government faces criticism over the speed and organization of relief efforts immediately after the earthquake, and Erdogan said it wasn’t fast enough and declared a three-month state of emergency in the affected areas.

An official in the ruling Justice and Development Party predicted that the disaster would lead to an erosion of votes for the ruling coalition, in light of the suffering and loss of life and property.

“They want someone to be held accountable,” the AKP official said.

The earthquake-stricken region usually supports Erdogan, as he won 55% of the vote there in the 2018 presidential elections, and the Justice and Development Party and its partners won the same level of support in the parliamentary elections.

Back in time, and after the deadly powerful earthquake that hit Izmit in in northwestern Türkiye in 1999, were 17,000 people were killed, at that time the criticism of relief efforts was a factor in the collapse of the Turkish government’s popularity at the time, which helped the AKP to win the 2002 elections.

There is also an intense debate between the government and the opposition over whether Erdogan, who has held the presidency since 2014 and is serving his second term in office, can run again.

The spokesman for the CHP’s constitutional committee, Ibrahim Capoglu said, “Erdogan would only be eligible to run in elections if they were held before June”.

“The constitution places a two-term limit for presidents, but they enable them to seek another term if Parliament calls snap elections before the second term expires, and if Erdogan ran later, the constitution would have to be changed,” Capoglu said.

Capoglu concluded, “Discussing such a change would be problematic, because such a constitutional change will only be made to fit a certain individual, (referring to Erdogan)”.

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