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Turkey’s election races officially begin as Erdogan sets vote for May 14

The country’s executive presidential system will be the focal point of the campaigning period.
ADEM ALTAN/AFP via Getty Images

ANKARA — The race for Turkey’s presidential and parliamentary election officially kicked off on Friday with the country’s 65 million-strong electorate set to hit the ballot box on May 14.

During the official announcement, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan cited college admission exams, hajj, holiday seasons and earthquakes for holding the elections in May instead of June 18. His decision came into effect after it was published in the official gazette the same day. 

Erdogan, who had announced his intention to bring the date of the polls forward before the Feb. 6 twin earthquakes, hinted last month that the killer temblors would not cause any change to the election timetable, defying speculation that he might want to delay the vote. 

He also took a jab at the in-house rifts that engulfed the country’s leading opposition alliance last week before the bloc agreed on a joint candidate. 

“Political rifts and uncertainties disrupt efforts to heal earthquake wounds. … The events that unfolded last week are sufficient to show how big the threat is,” said Erdogan.

The country’s opposition bloc comprising six parties including main opposition Republican People’s Party, nationalist Iyi Party and other small parties ranging from the Islamists to liberal factions were on the verge of dissolution over disagreements on a candidate to run against Erdogan in the presidential poll, before tapping main opposition leader Kemal Kilicdaroglu as their joint candidate earlier this week. 

The rift provided much needed ammunition for the Erdogan-led ruling party and its ultra-nationalist allies to defend the executive presidential system the country adopted in 2017. Erdogan has long cited the political crises and instability that the country witnessed under coalition governments before his party came into power in 2002.

Yet the president, who has comfortably seen off almost every electoral challenge in the past two decades, is facing his toughest fight yet as polls suggest a close race amid a skyrocketing cost of living and growing anger over government’s disordered response to the earthquakes that killed more than 47,900 people in the country’s southeast.

The main pledge of the opposition bloc, led by the country’s bureaucrat-turned-politician Kilicdaroglu — who is also the architect of the hard-fought unity within the alliance — is to disband Erdogan’s executive presidency. The alliance has long blamed it for dismantling the country’s system of check and balances, eroding judiciary independence and fueling nepotism.

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