President of Turkey Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who is seeking to extend his two decades in power, on Friday, formally set May 14 as the country’s parliamentary and presidential elections a month earlier than scheduled despite last month’s devastating earthquake.
The elections could be the country’s most significant vote in decades. It will determine whether the country will take a more democratic path or continue on the increasingly authoritarian course set by the strongman politician.
Erdogan has ruled over Turkey since 2003, first as prime minister and as president since 2014, but this year’s elections could be his most challenging.
The country is struggling with a troubled economy, soaring inflation and the aftermath of the powerful earthquake that has killed more than 46,000 people and left hundreds of thousands of people across 11 Turkish provinces sheltering in tents or temporary accommodation.
Early this week, Turkey’s disparate opposition parties, including nationalists, Islamists and conservatives, ended month of uncertainty that had frustrated supporters of the anti-Erdogan bloc and nominated a joint candidate to run against Erdogan.
The six opposition parties, which have pledged to roll back the erosion of rights and freedoms, united behind Kemal Kilicdaroglu, the 74-year-old leader of the center-left, secularist Republican People’s Party, or CHP.
The Supreme Electoral Council will now determine the electoral calendar. A runoff presidential election would be held on May 28 if none of the candidates secure more than 50% of the vote.
The presidential and parliamentary elections were scheduled to hold on June 18, but the government moved them forward to avoid coinciding with the Hajj pilgrimage, a university entrance exam and the start of the summer vacation season.
Writing by Tersoo Nicholas