Stratfor's 2018 Second-Quarter Forecast indicated that Turkey's economic strain and attempts to capitalize on military successes could drive the country to hold early elections. That analysis has proved accurate, as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has called for parliamentary and presidential elections to be held almost a year and a half ahead of schedule.
On April 18, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for presidential and parliamentary elections to be held on June 24 — nearly a year and a half early. The decision follows consultations between Erdogan and political ally Devlet Bahceli, leader of the Nationalist Movement Party. One day before Erdogan's announcement, Bahceli had made a call of his own for early elections, which had been scheduled for Nov. 3, 2019. The snap elections are a key test for Erdogan's Justice and Development Party (AKP), which despite holding a parliamentary majority, faces challenges that could erode its popularity.
When the opposition Iyi Parti (the Good Party) emerged in late 2017, for example, it drew disillusioned members away from the ranks of both the ruling AKP and the Nationalist Movement Party. Iyi Parti's growing popularity has begun to pose more of a threat to both parties, with recent opinion polls depicting a competitive head-to-head matchup against the AKP in a potential presidential election. And adding to that pressure has been the lackluster performance of the Turkish economy, which the government fears could grow even worse. Although Turkey's gross domestic product has kept growing, corporate debt and inflation have followed suit, making the country's economy particularly vulnerable to any number of global factors.
With no guarantee of economic stability in the months ahead, the AKP is looking to capitalize on its current level of support. For the past few months, the Turkish military has conducted operations against Kurdish militants in Afrin in northwestern Syria, an action that has proved popular at home. Capitalizing on this bump in public opinion could have a huge payoff for Erdogan should he win the accelerated election, as the changes to the country's constitution approved by the April 2017 referendum will only take effect after Turkey's next elections. After the balloting, the position of prime minister will be eliminated, and the powers of the president would significantly expand.
No matter who wins them, the elections themselves will usher in a fundamental shift in the Turkish government's structure. Those high stakes will make them domestically contentious and will fuel opposition from parties that function as a sort of loyal opposition within Turkey, including the Republican People's Party, and new opposition groups such as Iyi Parti. If Erdogan and the AKP emerge victorious yet again, Turkey's already strained relations with the European Union will grow more contentious. After all, EU criticism has touched on how Erdogan has used his increasing power, and after the elections, the office he now holds will indeed grow more powerful.