The full extent of Monday’s massive earthquakes that ripped through southern Turkey and neighboring provinces in Syria won’t be known anytime soon. Seismologists say they are the worst set of earthquakes to hit Turkey in modern times. The death toll stood at more than 2,600 at the time of publication of this article and is set to rise significantly as hundreds, if not thousands, of people remain trapped under the rubble. As night sets in and temperatures dip under harsh winter conditions, the likelihood of their survival under flattened edifices will fade. And what of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan?
Even as tragic images continued to pour in from the disaster zones, some were already weighing the possible impact of the earthquakes on Turkish politics. The most immediate question is whether parliamentary and presidential elections will be held as scheduled on May 14. This will depend on two factors: whether the physical conditions for elections exist closer to the time, and whether Erdogan decides it’s in his favor to prolong the state of emergency declared after the first quake and postpone balloting beyond the June 18 deadline for holding polls.