Turkish President Surprised as Ally Calls for Early Vote

By SUZAN FRASER

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan met with the leader of the country’s main nationalist party on Wednesday to discuss his political ally’s surprise call for an early election this summer.

Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, said Tuesday that parliamentary and presidential elections scheduled for November 2019 should be brought forward by more than a year to Aug. 26 this year.

Erdogan, who has long said the elections would take place as scheduled, met with Bahceli for talks and was expected to make an announcement later Wednesday.

Turkey is switching from a parliamentary system to a presidential system that increases the powers of the president, following a narrowly approved referendum last year. The changes take effect with the next election.

Bahceli argued there’s “no point in prolonging this any longer,” citing efforts by unnamed groups to foment chaos in Turkey.

Erdogan who has moved to further tighten his grip on politics since a failed coup attempt in 2016, needs a 51 percent majority to be re-elected in the first round of the presidential election. Earlier this year, his ruling his conservative, Islamic-rooted Justice and Development reached an election alliance with Bahceli’s MHP.

The call for an early election comes as nationalist sentiment is running high over Turkey’s recent military operation in Syria that ousted Syrian Kurdish forces from a northern enclave. Ankara has labeled the Syrian Kurdish fighters as terrorists because of their affiliation with outlawed Kurdish rebels fighting inside Turkey.

In a related development, Turkey’s parliament was to vote Wednesday on whether to prolong the state of emergency that was declared after the failed July 2016 coup.

Parliament was widely expected to extend the state of emergency for a seventh time despite calls at home and abroad for it to end.

The European Union, which Turkey seeks to join, says Turkey is backsliding on bringing its laws into line with EU standards and called for the country to lift its state of emergency. Last month, a U.N. report concluded that Turkey’s state of emergency had led to human rights violations, including arbitrary detentions and dismissals, torture and ill-treatment.

Turkey’s main opposition party accuses the government of misusing its emergency powers to erode democracy and arrest government critics. Its supporters have staged sit-in protests this week across Turkey to demand an end to the emergency declaration.

The government requested extending the emergency decree, arguing that security threats from a movement led by U.S.-based cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Turkey accuses of masterminding the coup, had not abated. It also cites Turkey’s continued struggle against Kurdish rebels and other groups.

Gulen has denied any ties to the failed coup.

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