ANKARA – President Tayyip Erdogan signalled on Wednesday that Turkey would hold elections on May 14, a month earlier than he had earlier flagged, setting the clock ticking on perhaps the most consequential vote in the century-long history of the republic.
Polls show the parliamentary and presidential elections will be tight, and they mark Erdogan’s biggest test in his two decades at the reins of the regional military power, important NATO member and major emerging market economy.
With an opposition alliance promising to roll back the president’s unorthodox economic policies, the vote will also decide how Turkey is governed and what role it may play to ease conflict in Ukraine and the Middle East.
Addressing lawmakers of his Islamist-rooted AK Party (AKP) in parliament, Erdogan said Turks will dismiss the opposition at the ballot box on the same date that elections were held in 1950.
“Our nation will say ‘enough’ to these coup appreciators, this ambitious but incompetent Table of Six, on the same day after 73 years,” Erdogan said of the six-party alliance looking to topple him.
In the elections held on May 14 of 1950, the Democrat Party prevailed against the Republican People’s Party (CHP), which had ruled Turkey for 27 years since its founding – and which is the largest party in today’s opposition alliance.
Last year Erdogan had repeated the vote would be held in June, but earlier this month he said the date may be brought forward from the scheduled June 18.
Erdogan has championed religious piety, military-backed diplomacy, and low interest rates despite inflation soaring above 85% in October. His opponents promise a radical change if they win, but have yet to pick a presidential candidate.
The ruling AKP is still the strongest party in Turkey and will likely remain a powerful force in parliament, but opinion polls show Erdogan trailing against some potential challengers.