Washington, D.C.– Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s surprise announcement today of elections to be held 16 months earlier than scheduled is his attempt to cement his current domination of Turkish politics and society, fearing that a weakening economy might spur opposition to him, Bipartisan Policy Center national security experts said.
“The announcement of snap elections should dispel any remaining illusions that U.S. policymakers have held on to about their ability to work cooperatively with Turkey,” Blaise Misztal, BPC national security director, said. “In his desire for victory, Erdogan has played to his base by fueling anti-Western sentiment and been quick to capitalize on the nationalist sentiment inspired by Turkey’s recent invasion of Afrin.”
“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,” Nicholas Danforth, a senior policy analyst at BPC, said. “In recent months the value of the lira has dropped dramatically, Turkey’s sovereign credit rating has been downgraded and several large firms have moved to restructure their debt.”
In the run-up to the June election, the United States and European Union should focus on calling out Turkey’s erosion of rule of law, media freedom, and civil rights. They should also offer their full support to civil society groups in Turkey, particularly those engaged in electoral monitoring.
“The prospects for Turkey’s opposition are grim, but with U.S.-Turkish relations already at their lowest point in decades, Washington has little to lose by taking a principled stand,” Misztal said.
Blaise Misztal and Nicholas Danforth are available for comment.