In calling a snap election for June 24th, Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan has seized the moment to tighten his authoritarian grip on a divided country. Going to the people this summer allows Erdogan to claim credit for a boom that saw the economy grow by more than 7 per cent last year.
Amid signs that the credit-fuelled economy is over-heating and that a slowdown is on the horizon, it would have been a risk for Erdogan to hold out until the scheduled election date in November 2019. A leader widely known to be fixated with opinion polls will also have been keenly aware that popular support for his Justice and Development Party (AKP) has risen on the back of a surge of Turkish nationalism since the army's victory over Kurdish fighters in the Afrin enclave of northern Syria.
Since the botched coup, Erdogan's regime has arrested tens of thousands and suspended more than 100,000 others from public sector jobs
Erdogan has the luxury of knowing that, thanks to his sustained crackdown on political opponents and independent media, his victory is virtually guaranteed. The election will take place under a state of emergency imposed after an attempted coup in July 2016, meaning the police – controlled by the government – can arrest anyone without a court order and the authorities can limit freedom of expression and assembly.
Since the botched coup, Erdogan's regime has arrested tens of thousands and suspended more than 100,000 others from public sector jobs. Erdogan has also managed to neutralise his political opponents. The timing of the election will probably foil a key rival for the nationalist vote, Meral Aksener. She may be precluded from running because on election day her newly-formed party will have existed for less than the six months set by Turkish electoral law as the threshold for participation in an election.
With the June ballot, Erdogan will fulfil a long-held wish by putting the seal on a new executive presidency that was narrowly approved in a referendum last year.The prime minister’s office will be abolished, the powers of parliament will be reduced and his own authority will grow. With that, another nail will be hammered into the coffin of Turkish democracy.